Concerns grow over frozen food products as Shenzhen grocery store workers test positive

By Liu Caiyu Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/15 16:59:34 Last Updated: 2020/8/15 18:05:53


Chinese public is growing more concerned about the safety of frozen food products as new infections were reported in a grocery store in Shenzhen. 

Experts believe it is no coincidence that cases related to frozen food products continue to emerge such as the virus found on frozen chicken wings from Brazil and the outbreaks in Beijing's Xinfadi market and a seafood company in Dalian. 

According to the Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission, an employee of Alibaba's Freshippo grocery store surnamed Chen, who worked as a yogurt promoter in a Freshippo branch in Shenzhen's Luohu district, has contracted COVID-19. 

Employee and contact screening found two more people working in the same branch store with Chen and three family members of Chen living in Guangdong's Lufeng tested positive for the coronavirus and are currently asymptomatic.

The infections have prompted local government to conduct widespread coronavirus testing of residents to track close contacts of the infected employees.

Freshippo also announced to close all 21 of its stores in Shenzhen and will test all food products and employees for the virus.

Photo: cnsphoto

While the source of infection remains unknown, it may have come from frozen food products, many speculated. Outbreaks among people at Wuhan's Huanan seafood market, Beijing's Xinfadi market, and a seafood company in Dalian and now Freshippo, seems to have some connection to frozen food products. 

Wuhan-based virologist Yang Zhanqiu told the Global Times all the cases relating to seafood or frozen food are not a coincidence because the virus can remain viable even after a long period in a low-temperature environment. 

Ruan Guang Feng, an expert from China Food Information Center, told the Global Times Saturday there is no evidence that food could can cause the spread the novel coronavirus as droplet are the virus' main method of transmission.

While the pandemic is still rampant overseas, "the possibility of frozen food products being contaminated with the virus is high," Yang warned, suggesting that food products be tested for the virus before going on sale.

Ruan said as long as people thoroughly cook food and keep the cooking environment clean, the public should not be concerned about food safety. 

"I have obviously reduced the amount of frozen food products I eat, especially seafood, after people contracted COVID-19 after handing frozen food products," a resident in Shenzhen surnamed Li told the Global Times. Li said she and her colleagues have stopped eating at restaurants that serve seafood.

Since July, at least 10 cases in China had involved frozen food products, including frozen chicken wings from Brazil and shrimps from Ecuador that tested positive for the coronavirus, media reported. 

The novel coronavirus was detected on a chopping board used by a seller of imported salmon at Beijing's Xinfadi market. 

Meanwhile, Shenzhen will strengthen supervision and establish a closed-loop management system of the entire supply chain relating to imported frozen food products. Warehouses, food markets and restaurants will be required disinfect their premises and products, said the anti-epidemic group led by Party chief of Shenzhen Wang Weizhong on Friday.

Some retail markets in Guangdong Province have already enhanced their anti-epidemic measures. Some have removed all seafood products, and require coronavirus tests be carried out before imported meat and seafood products are sold and carry out routine weekly checks of the supply chain of frozen food products.

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