BEIJING (AP) – China has sparked controversy over allegations that it has found the coronavirus on imported frozen food packaging.
Frozen shrimp imported by an Ecuadorian company were banned for a week on Tuesday for a series of similar temporary bans.
Although experts say the virus may survive for some time on cardboard and plastic containers, it remains unclear how serious the risk is. Like so many pandemic issues, the issue is quickly politicized.
China has rejected complaints from the United States and others, saying it puts people̵
A look at the problem and some of the conclusions so far:
WORK IN CHINA
Packaging first became a major problem with outbreaks in China related to wholesale food markets, including one in June on the outskirts of Beijing. This has led to the removal of smoked salmon from supermarket shelves and has led to numerous cases across the country, including chicken, beef and seafood from nearly two dozen countries. In some supermarkets, imported meat is now offered with a sticker declaring it virus-free.
Infections among freight carriers also place suspicion on packaging. However, human-to-human transmission is not ruled out, and China has not yet provided evidence that packaging was indeed a route of infection.
COMPLAINTS FROM THE SEA
Trade partners, including the United States, New Zealand, Canada and the EU, say they are unaware of China’s methodology and have seen no hard evidence that their products are carriers of the virus. The United States questioned whether China’s repression was scientifically justified and suggested that the bans could constitute an unfair trade barrier.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijiang called the US accusations “completely baseless and unreasonable.” “China’s measures are necessary, following the spirit of putting people’s lives first and protecting people’s health,” he said last week.
In a statement to the Associated Press, the World Health Organization said cases of live viruses being found on packaging appeared “rare and isolated”. Although the virus can “survive for a long time in cold storage conditions,” there is no evidence of people becoming infected with COVID-19 from food consumption, it said.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is transmitted predominantly by airborne droplets and smaller particles that have passed into the air, emphasizing the importance of wearing masks.
However, the virus can also be present on surfaces, and public health officials are urging people to wash their hands carefully and avoid physical contact with others. In general, the colder and drier the conditions, the longer the virus can survive on the surface.
Wiping countertops, railings and other surfaces is a common way to ensure safety. Some people have also gone to the extreme of disinfecting packages brought into their homes, both by themselves and by delivery services.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Traces of viruses found on the packaging can be infectious or non-infectious. The extremely sensitive tests used can detect both active viruses and their residues without being able to distinguish between them, said Timothy Newsum, a virologist at the University of Sydney.
“It is possible and may pose some risk, but it is certainly at the bottom of the transmission risk,” he said. “We know that low temperatures stabilize the virus. However, I think things that have been transported and surface transmission – there is little risk of it. “
The positive test “does not show an infectious virus, but simply that some signal from the virus is present on this surface,” said Andrew Pekosh of Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
“I have not seen convincing evidence that SARS-CoV-2 on food packaging poses a significant risk of infection,” he said.
Associated Press health and science writer Victoria Milko contributed to this report.