DURBAN – Do not panic, said the World Health Organization following the news that a sample of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil has tested positive for the novel Coronavirus in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. New Zealand has also reported that it found traces on food and food packaging imported from other countries.
However, the WHO said it is “highly unlikely that people can contract Covid-19 from food or food packaging,” due to the fact that Coronaviruses require a living host to multiply. Outside a body, they gradually become weaker and lose the ability to actively infect.
In a June memo, the CDC similarly claimed that the risk of infection from food products or bags is “thought to be very low.” Remnants of the deadly virus have been known to cause false-positive results in recovered patients.
“People should not fear food, or food packaging or processing or delivery of food. There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus. And people should feel comfortable and safe,” WHO head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva.
It is reported that Chinese authorities have increased screening of imported meat and seafood products since June when a Coronavirus outbreak in Beijing emerged from the city’s largest wholesale food market.
State media reported at the time that the virus was discovered on a chopping board used for imported salmon at the market, prompting supermarkets in the Chinese capital to remove salmon from their shelves.
Researchers have taken to scientific journals to downplay transmission by fomites, a term for the surfaces themselves. In a recent commentary in The Lancet, Emanuel Goldman, a microbiologist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said, “the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after.”
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