Coronavirus Found On Frozen Food Shipments Imported To China

Aaron Homer

Officials in China say that the coronavirus has been found on the packaging of frozen foods in three cities in the country, NBC News reported.

On Thursday, authorities announced that in the southeastern city of Shenzhen, authorities tested a sample of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil and found the SARS-CoV-2 -- the pathogen colloquially being referred to as the coronavirus -- on the packaging.

As The Hill reported, Brazil is second only to the United States in terms of active coronavirus cases, with 3,164,785 cases officially reported, as of Thursday.

A day earlier, the virus was found in the southeastern city of Wuhu on packaging of frozen shrimp imported from Ecuador. Before that, health officials in the eastern port city of Yantai found the coronavirus on the outer packaging of frozen seafood transported by a foreign ship. In the Yantai case, it remains unclear where the food was imported from.

The three incidents come in the wake of similar findings last month in Dalian, Xiamen and Pingxiang.

Chinese officials have been conducting screenings on food packaging ever since June when an outbreak in Beijing was linked to a wholesale food market.

In a statement, the Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission said that it had conducted contract tracing and carried out testing on everyone who may have come into contact with potentially contaminated food products. All the results were negative.

Still, the agency warned the city's 12 million residents to be careful.

"All the citizens should be cautious in buying imported frozen meat products and aquatic products in recent days," the statement reads, in part.

David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said via CNN that the imported goods were almost certainly contaminated during packaging. However, he also noted that it's very likely that what the tests picked up was non-infectious remnants of the pathogens -- enough to cause a false positive.

Meanwhile, health officials believe, for now, that food and food packaging are generally safe and not likely to be a source of transmission of the deadly virus.

"There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food; they need an animal or human host to multiply," the World Health Organization had previously said.

Further, the organization noted that, though it's certainly possible for a person to infect a surface with the coronavirus and for another person to then pick it up from having touched that same surface, that is not the primary way in which the pathogen is transmitted.