China takes fight against Covid-19 to frozen foods, enhances testing and slams breaks on imports

CHINA – In China where the first cases of Corona Virus were reported back in 2019, authorities have stepped up screening of frozen food imports following reports of traces of the virus being detected in imported foods.

In Wuhan, the ground zero of Covid-19, authorities said they had detected traces of the virus on frozen beef from Brazil.

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Four more cities reported last week that samples from imported food — including frozen Argentinian pork and Indian cuttlefish — had tested positive.

According to senior Chinese customs official Bi Kexin, Customs inspectors across the country have so far tested more than 800,000 samples from refrigerated imports and suspended shipments from 99 overseas suppliers.

Chinese health officials have also confirmed that two cold-chain storage workers in the port city of Tianjin were infected with Covid-19, as the country shifts focus to contaminated imports after a number of outbreaks linked to frozen food.

The World Health Organization however says “there is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging”.

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Paul Tamyah president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection affirms WHO’s opinion saying, transmission of Covid-19 across countries on frozen food is “possible but it has not been comprehensively studied so we do not know the extent of this spread”.

Detection of corona virus on imported foods and the subsequent banning of imports from 99 suppliers however creates another challenge which is food security.

Customs data in September showed that Chinese meat imports had increased by more than 70 percent this year as the country’s food supply was disrupted by swine fever and heavy flooding which destroyed swathes of farmland.

Slamming brakes on imports will not only reduce supply of vital foods but also increase the cost of food in the country, putting a further strain on the income of a majority of Chinese families.

Authorities however, see this step as necessary in the fight against Corona virus which China has been trying in the past months to take control of, particularly following a recent spike in corona virus cases in the country.

Earlier this month, China also banned visitors from countries including the UK and India and raised testing requirements for travellers from a number of others.

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