Focus on cold chain food infection risk

BEIJING: China’s customs agency has stepped up efforts to prevent the novel coronavirus from being imported via cold chain food with actions including broader communication with authorities in more than 100 countries, following a recent increase in cases of the virus entering the country on imported cold chain food.

The General Administration of Customs said it had been in touch with authorities in all 109 countries that export cold chain food to China and demanded that they urge food exporters to strictly follow sanitation guidelines and prevent coronavirus contamination of food and packaging bound for China.

The administration added that it had also suspended imports of goods from all enterprises that had reported cluster infections among their employees.

By last Wednesday, 99 such companies from 20 countries had suspended exports to China, it said.

The administration had also intensified risk-monitoring of imported cold chain food and increased sampling tests of higher-risk foods such as seafood.

“Intensified efforts will continue, including sterilisation of imported cold chain food, to minimise risks of outbreaks due to importation of the virus, ” the administration said.

Detection of the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, on imported cold chain food or its packaging has been reported in more places across China recently, prompting authorities to issue alerts about the need to handle such food properly to minimise the chances of infection.

While the epidemic has been brought well under control domestically, importation of the virus poses a major risk.

In Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, two cold-storage facilities were sealed on Sunday after a package of pork imported from Argentina tested positive for the coronavirus.

Eighteen people linked with the case were put under quarantine for medical observation and all tested negative for the virus, city authorities said.

The coronavirus was also detected on imported cold-chain food or its packaging in several other places in the past few days, including Jinan in Shandong province, Wuhan in Hubei province and Quanzhou in Fujian province.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Sunday that a major reason that contaminated cold-chain food is being detected in more places across China is the worsening pandemic overseas, which has increased the chances of importing contaminated cold chain food.

Another reason is falling temperatures in the northern hemisphere that help the virus survive longer.

Meanwhile, local authorities across China had intensified monitoring of cold chain food, resulting in timely identification of contaminated goods, Wu said.

Contaminated imported cold chain food was suspected to be the cause of an outbreak in Beijing in June, as the virus was detected on cutting boards at a wholesale market used to process imported salmon.No locally transmitted cases had been reported in the city for nearly two months before the outbreak.

In October, researchers from the China CDC isolated live coronavirus for the first time from a package containing imported cod while tracing an outbreak in Qingdao.

The discovery confirmed that contact with packaging contaminated with the coronavirus can cause infection. — China Daily/ANN

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cold chain food , covid-19 , pandemic


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