China finds living coronavirus on cold chain food packaging, marking world first

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/18 12:29:59

Medical staff wait to collect swab samples from residents for COVID-19 test in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Oct. 14, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Saturday that it has detected and isolated living novel coronavirus in a positive sample from the outer packaging of imported frozen cod, when the CDC was tracing a new small-scale outbreak occurred in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province.

It was the first time in the world that living novel coronavirus has been isolated from the outer packaging of cold-chain food, showing that exposure to the virus-contaminated packaging can lead to infection, the CDC announced on its official website.

It was the first time it has been confirmed that under special conditions of cold chain transportation outside the laboratory, the coronavirus can survive on the packaging for a long time, signaling that the virus can be imported with the carrier of cold-chain food for long distances across borders, said the announcement.

Under such special conditions, the living virus could infect people who are not effectively protected, mainly including workers in the cold chain sector, which suggested that while preventing the imports of infected cases from abroad, China should also pay attention to the risk of imported virus from cold-chain items, said the CDC.

The CDC said that the risk of the coronavirus contamination in the circulating cold chain food in China is low, citing the nucleic acid test results from the cold chain sector.

As of September 15, 24 provinces and regions in the country have reported 2.98 million test results, including 670,000 from cold-chain food and its packaging samples, 1.24 million samples from related workers and 1.07 million environment samples, with only 22 samples from food and its packaging testing positive, according to the announcement. The results showed that the nucleic acid load in the virus is low, said the CDC.

It also noted that the infection risk to the public of being exposed to and eating cold-chain food is very low, as COVID-19 is not a food borne illness and has not been found to cause infection through eating.

Also, in response to the infection risk, Chinese authorities have strengthened detection, disinfection and other work of imported cold-chain food, said the CDC.

It added that the public can purchase and eat imported fresh food as normal, while people working in the cold chain sector should follow the related directions and regulations to avoid infection.

Global Times

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