Can imported frozen foods really spread COVID-19? That’s what experts say
New Zealand reported its first case of COVID-19 in more than 100 days on Tuesday. It is possible that the virus arrived via imported food packaging. The country’s health officials suspected the new outbreak may be related to these frozen foods as one of the infected patients works in a shop that orders such products from overseas, Reuters reported Thursday.
Chinese officials reported similar news this week: Traces of the virus were found on frozen shrimp and chicken wing packs imported from Ecuador and Brazil, respectively. The Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission, where officials discovered the contaminated chicken wing packaging, warned residents to be careful when buying imported frozen foods (frozen meat and fish products), according to NBC News ”.
However, experts claim that the chance of contracting COVID-19 through frozen foods is slim.
“It’s possible, but the virus isn’t very stable outside of the human body,” Caitlin Howell, a chemical and biomedical engineer at the University of Maine, told Business Insider.
She added, “Freezing or chilling the virus can help increase the length of time it remains infectious. This is why we believe that outbreaks are so common in meat packers, but surface transmission still seems to be rare – even when those surfaces are frozen or refrigerated.
So far, the Shenzhen Health Commission reported that no one who came in contact with the frozen food had tested positive for COVID-19.
Chinese health authorities have already discovered coronaviruses on frozen packaging. Frozen seafood packages transported to Yantai by a foreign ship also had traces of the virus, NBC News reported. Last month, the coronavirus was also found on imported frozen foods in Dalian, Xiamen and Pingxiang.
But these findings are not cause for concern, according to Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program.
“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is involved in the transmission of this virus and people should feel comfortable and safe,” Ryan said at a news conference Thursday, adding, “People shouldn’t be afraid of food , Food packaging or processing and prior to the delivery of food.
China tested a few hundred thousand packaging samples and fewer than 10 were positive, the WHO reported.
That’s because – if the virus lands on such packaging at all – it is unlikely to survive as long as it takes to get goods from one place to another, according to Rachel Graham, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina.
“Even frozen, on such a surface, the virus will be seen to dry out, making it completely non-infectious,” Graham told Business Insider, adding that the “freeze-thaw process” could kill it as well.
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