No Evidence That COVID-19 Spreads from Food Packaging: WHO

How can you ensure safety when grocery shopping?

Published
Coronavirus
2 min read
On Thursday, two cities in China found traces of COVID-19 in cargoes of imported frozen food.
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On Thursday, two cities in China found traces of COVID-19 in cargoes of imported frozen food.

Samples from the surface of frozen chicken wings imported into the southern city of Shenzhen from Brazil, and samples from the packaging of frozen Ecuadorian shrimp sold in the northwestern city of Xian, have tested positive for the virus, local Chinese authorities said, reported NDTV.

As cases of COVID-19 show no signs of slowing down globally, and with Brazil being the world number two in cases, this discovery causes understandable worries. However, the World Health Organisation asserted that so far there is no evidence of the virus being transferred by food and it is much more likely that human-to-human contact and contact with infected droplets causes the respiratory disease.

“People should not fear food, food packaging or delivery of food.”
Mike Ryan, WHO’s head of emergencies programme told a briefing

WHO also added that, “Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food – they need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive.”

There is some confusion as to how the packages got infected in the first place. The Brazilian packaging plant has allegedly not been made aware of the contamination, and the company asserts it takes the appropriate safety measures.

On the other hand, Shenzhen's health authorities have traced and tested everyone who might have come into contact with potentially contaminated food products and everyone tested negative.

China has also screening all meat, seafood and food imports coming into their ports. According to reports, seven Argentine meat processing plants have temporarily stopped exporting to China as they had COVID-19 cases among their staff.

Much apprehension surrounds the case as the first COVID-19 cluster was found in a wet-market in Wuhan - although how it came there is still not determined

The US’ Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture Department said that there is “no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging."

However, in June, Li Fengquin, head of a microbiology lab at the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment said that the possibility of frozen food containing new infections cannot be entirely ruled out.

So what does this mean? As more evidence pours in, it is best to follow these food safety steps, as recommended by the WHO:

  1. Try to order food online as much as possible to avoid the risk of going out and being around potential infection sites or people.
  2. If you do go out, remember to only touch the products you want to buy and wear a mask at all times.
  3. Maintain social distancing
  4. Sanitize the trolley handle or basket and your hands before entering
  5. Do not touch your face, nose, mouth or eyes once you have touched any products in a market - carry a sanitizer to sanitize for 20 seconds first.
  6. Try to use contactless payment and not cash
  7. Once home, remember to disinfect all the products for at least 20 seconds before consuming anything.
  8. Wash your hands thoroughly once you are home and after handling packages. Also wash before eating.

(With inputs from NDTV)

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