China suspends imports of meat products from multiple countries after virus detected on packaging

By Wan Lin and Zhang Hui Source: Published: 2020/7/12 23:59:41

Customers buy meat at a Chaoshifa supermarket branch in Haidian District of Beijing, capital of China, June 14, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

China is suspending imports of meat and meat products from 23 companies and stepping-up inspection of imported foods after the outside packaging of imported shrimp tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bi Kexin, an official from China General Administration of Customs, told a press conference Friday that six samples tested positive for the coronavirus from the outside packages of frozen shrimps from Ecuador to Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province and Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province on July 3. 

Imports from 23 meat producers in multiple countries including Germany, the United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom have been suspended, said Bi. 

 "China has sufficient evidence that the virus was on the imported shrimp package and it's reasonable to ban the shrimp imports of the related foreign companies," Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The virus is still able to transmit to humans from polluted packages of imported frozen seafood, but at  a much lower rate of infection compared to human-to-human transmission, said Jin. 

Yang Zhanqiu, the deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, said the virus can remain viable at freezing temperatures so China has to strengthen detection of imported goods to avoid virus transmission. 

The discovery of the virus on shrimp packaging shows there are loopholes in food safety management in the exporting countries, even though the virus wasn't found on the food itself, Yang said.

In June, media reported the coronavirus had been found on a chopping board for imported salmon in Beijing's Xinfadi market. That finding led to sales suspension of fresh salmon in the city and beyond. The recent COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing lead to more than 300 new infections in the following month. No new confirmed cases have been announced in the capital since July 6.

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