Chinese traders step up checks of Ecuadorian shrimps after packaging test positive for coronavirus

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/10 21:23:41 Last Updated: 2020/7/10 22:34:08

Country’s share in China market could be eaten by virus: industry players

Shrimp File photo:VCG

Many Chinese online platforms and restaurants started to halt sales or recall Ecuadorian shrimp products on Friday, after the novel coronavirus was detected in packaging of frozen white shrimps from Ecuador, sparking concerns that the shrimp could be contaminated.

On Alibaba's Hema Fresh supermarket, the Global Times found no Ecuador shrimps on sale as of press time on Friday, and all shrimp products have been labeled with the country of origin - mostly from Vietnam or Thailand.

A Beijing barbecue restaurant chain told the Global Times on Friday that it has halted sales of all dishes involving white shrimps from Ecuador, and will continue to strengthen the imports channel, and ask suppliers to provide nucleic acid tests for all seafood products.

Wal-Mart told the Global Times on Friday that it immediately conducted a comprehensive investigation of all Ecuadorian shrimps in the store, and Wal-Mart confirmed it has none of them.  

"The announcement will affect consumer confidence in the shrimps from the country, which is also something we value a lot, and accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of our total sales," Weng Qiang, a purchasing manager at Sunkfa Holding Group, a leading seafood company based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Ecuador Aquaculture Association (CNA) data shows that from January to March 2020, Ecuador's shrimp exports reached $908 million, a year-on-year increase of 12 percent. China, the US and Spain are the top three export destinations, with exports to China up by 59.4 percent year-on-year. In March, China bought 56.9 percent of the white shrimp, whose proportion rose to 82 percent in April.

Industry insiders said its share in the China market could be eaten by the virus.

China has suspended imports from three shrimp producers in Ecuador after six positive virus results were found on the outer packaging and inner wall of the containers from Industrial Pesquera Santa Priscila SA, Empacreci SA and Empacadora Del Pacifico Sociedad Anonima Edpacif, according to a statement on the website of the General Administration of Customs. 

However, test results on the shrimp and inner packaging were negative.

The contaminated products were found at customs in Dalian in North East China's Liaoning Province and Xiamen in East China's Fujian Province.

Based on nucleic acid sequence analysis and expert judgment, the test results indicated that the container environment and the outer packaging of the goods of the three companies risked being contaminated by the novel coronavirus, and that the food safety management system of the three firms was not in order, the statement said.

Chinese Customs also ordered importers to recall or destroy shrimps produced by the three firms after March 12.

The findings come as China has strengthened testing of food imports, after the virus was found on a chopping board used to cut salmon at Xinfadi, a large wholesale food market in Beijing. These are the first positive results announced since it intensified testing.

However, Weng said unlike salmon cases, seafood importers have already stepped up nucleic acid tests on imported food, and will continue to sell those that have shown negative results.

"We will not remove the Ecuadorian white shrimps that have been tested negative for the novel coronavirus, unless we are required to do so," Weng said.

Nevertheless, the case prompted the Chinese Customs authority to continue to step up checks on not only personnel, but also food items, especially cold chain foods, said Yang Zhanqiu, a deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University.

In addition, the case also reminded us that containers and packaging of electronic products or even cars that we import can also be contaminated, Yang added, stressing that Chinese Customs should also check those.

China's has suspended imports from 23 overseas meat producers from Germany, the US, Brazil and the UK, as clusters of COVID-19 have emerged in the enterprises, Chinese Customs said on Friday.

Newspaper headline: Traders check Ecuadorian shrimps


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