Experts have moved to allay concerns you can contract Covid-19 from frozen food, after Chinese officials found traces of the deadly virus on imported food supplies. Local authorities in the Chinese city of Shenzhen warned the public to take precautions on Thursday, after a sample taken from the Brazilian frozen goods were reportedly found to have been contaminated by coronavirus. Samples from packaging of frozen shrimp from Ecuador, sold in Xian, also tested positive for the illness, local authorities there said. It wasn’t the first time this week that frozen food and cold temperatures role in transmitting Covid-19 came under the spotlight, with New Zealand health officials currently investigating the source of a mystery outbreak that began with a worker in a cold store facility in Mt Wellington. “We do know from studies overseas, that actually, the virus can survive in some refrigerated environments for quite some time,” director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, told reporters on Wednesday. But how concerned should we actually be? Having previously stated it’s “highly unlikely that people can contract Covid-19 from food or food packaging”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reiterated its stance. “People should not fear food, or food packaging or processing or delivery of food,” WHO’s head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva. “I would hate to think that we would create an impression that there’s a problem with our food or there’s a problem with our food chains. “There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus. And people should feel comfortable and safe.”
WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said China had tested hundreds of thousands of packages and “found very, very few, less than 10” were positive for Covid-19, while test results for those who may have had contact with the chicken wings in Shenzhen have so far come back negative, a statement from the municipal government said. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also, in the past, moved to dispel the theory. “This really is respiratory, person-to-person,” chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, which investigates foodborne and waterborne illnesses, Dr Ian Williams said. “At this point there is no evidence really pointing us towards food (or) food service as ways that are driving the epidemic.” In a joint statement on Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture echoed the sentiment, also confirming there’s “no evidence” people can contact coronavirus from food or food packaging. And while it’s been proven the virus can survive on certain surfaces for as long as three days, researchers found that if you disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated, the virus can be eradicated within a minute – and it’s important to remember touching a surface that’s contaminated won’t actually make you sick.
It’s only if you touch your face afterwards the cells of the virus can enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth. According to the WHO, it’s also “very unlikely that the virus will persist on a surface after being moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures”.