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How great is the risk of COV spreading through frozen foods?

Despite concerns about the risk of nCoV contamination from frozen foods imported in China and New Zealand, experts believe that the virus is mainly transmitted through droplets.

New Zealand on 11/8 recorded the first cases of community nCoV infections in more than 100 days, including 4 members of a family in Auckland City even though they recently did not travel abroad. Officials are investigating the possibility that the source of the contamination was an imported commodity because a family member worked in a frozen warehouse.

On the same day, China discovered nCoV on shrimp packages imported from Ecuador in Wuhu City, Anhui Province. A day earlier, the country also found nCoV on frozen seafood packaging in Yantai city, Shandong province, but did not specify the origin. On August 13, China again discovered nCoV on frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil in Shenzhen City, Guangdong province.

The Shenzhen Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges citizens to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of nCoV contamination from imported meat and seafood. In addition to inspecting all meat and seafood containers at major ports in recent months, China has stopped importing some meats from many places, including Brazil, since mid-June.

In June, Li Fengqin, director of a microbiology laboratory at the China National Food Safety Risk Assessment Center, told the press that the possibility of viral contamination could not be ruled out. is the cause of new infections.

A woman chooses frozen food at a supermarket in Beijing, China, on August 13. Photo: Reuters.

At the time, the head of the management board of Tan Phat Dia Market in Beijing, where a serious new outbreak was started, said that nCoV was discovered on the cutting board of an imported salmon seller. Wu Zunyou, an epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said nCoV can remain on the surface of frozen food for up to three months and the agency suspects the contaminated goods are the source. Original outbreak from Tan Phat Dia market.

However, scientists and officials say there is so far no solid evidence that nCoV can be spread through frozen foods. This view is reflected in a recent joint statement by the Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Mike Ryan, director of emergency health programs at the World Health Organization (WHO), yesterday also advised the public not to be afraid. “There is no evidence that a food or food chain has anything to do with the spread of nCoV. Everyone should feel comfortable and safe, without fear of food, food packaging, or the preparation process. Turn them, transport them, “he said.

According to the WHO report, China has tested several hundred thousand packaging samples and less than 10 units appeared nCoV. After detecting viruses on shrimp packaging at a restaurant, the Vu Ho government also tested the staff, the food, the restaurant’s interior surfaces, and staff of the shrimp wholesaler company and their family members. All are negative.

“It is still possible to infect nCoV from frozen foods, but the virus is not very stable when it exists outside the human body,” said Caitlin Howell, a chemical and biomedical engineer at the University of Maine, USA. know.

According to Rachel Graham, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, USA, even when stuck on the packages, the nCoV is unlikely to survive long periods of transportation of goods between locations.

“The virus will still be contained even if it stays on such a frozen surface, making it completely non-infectious,” Graham said, adding that thawing can also kill the nCoV.

Graham also pointed out that the ability of Chinese authorities to detect the viral RNA on the packages, is not a major threat. “According to virological theory, RNA is still infectious, but in fact it is not,” she said.

C. Brandon Ogbunu, a disease ecologist at Yale University, explains that RNA is just one marker for the presence of nCoV. Even when no longer exists, the virus still leaves behind some genetic material. “Finding the RNA only proves that the virus existed at some point,” Ogbunu said.

The “lifespan” of virus on objects depends on the type of material. One study found that nCoV would disappear from tissue and printing paper within three hours. Other research demonstrates the virus can last for up to one day on cardboard, three days on plastic and stainless steel.

People can become infected with COV if they touch an infected surface or object and then put their hands on their eyes, nose, and mouth. However, this is believed to be an uncommon path of infection and nCoV is usually transmitted through airborne droplets.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the transportation of goods is still going on around the world. If transmission through the surface, whether frozen or not, is the main pathway of viral infection, we will have many records. more like that, “said Howell.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also says that nCoV is “not contagious” from the surface to which the virus attaches, but continues to advise people

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