China warns of contamination risks

China warns of contamination risks

China has reportedly advised importers to avoid frozen foods from countries "heavily hit" by Covid-19 amid a rising number of instances where the virus has been detected on packaging.

The call went out this morning (28 September), according to Reuters, which quoted a statement sent to the country's importers from the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau: "Customs and local governments have repeatedly detected the coronavirus in imported cold chain food, proving it risks contamination," adding that they have been advised to "proactively avoid importing cold-chain food from areas heavily hit by the coronavirus" and make alternative plans.

Importers have also been urged to report any future cases detected on packaging with urgency and to improve their warning and reporting methods.

China's city of Wuhan in Hubei province was the source of the Covid-19 outbreak late last year before it spread around the world and was later classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The presence of the virus on food packaging would be a major concern for the industry, despite assurances.

The UK government, for instance, said in April "the risk of imported food and packaging from affected countries being contaminated with coronavirus is very unlikely. This is because the law requires the exporter to follow the right controls during the packing and shipping process to ensure good hygiene is met". 

The directive from China comes after the virus was found in September on packaging of frozen squid imported from Russia in the city of Fuyu in the north-eastern province of Jilin. And imports of frozen beltfish - a member of the cutlassfish family - were suspended this month from Indonesian supplier PT Putri Indah.

In August, media reports suggested the virus had been found on frozen seafood arriving in the port city of Yantai in Shandong province from another port city Dalian, in Lianoning province. And the same month, the virus was also detected on frozen shrimps arriving in Dalian from from Ecuador, prompting China to suspend shipments from three of the country's shrimp producers.

It has also been found on frozen chicken wings arriving in the southern city of Shenzhen from Brazil.