Beijing asks frozen food importers to shun countries with severe coronavirus

The order comes after China found its first local asymptomatic infections in more than a month as two port workers in Qingdao city responsible for unloading frozen seafood tested positive.

China’s capital city urged companies to halt imports of frozen food from countries that have been severely hit by the pandemic as fears continue to mount over the possibility of transmission through packaging.

The Beijing city government on Monday told companies to avoid importing frozen food from high-risk nations, without naming any. The order comes after China found its first local asymptomatic infections in more than a month as two port workers in Qingdao city responsible for unloading frozen seafood tested positive.

Chinese customs and local governments have repeatedly detected traces of the pathogen in imported cold-chain foods at a time when foreign food companies continued to report new infections, Beijing’s commerce bureau said on its website. That proves that imported frozen foods are at risk of contamination, it added.

Last week, China suspended some seafood imports from two Russian vessels and a Brazilian company after the coronavirus was found on packaging and product samples. In recent weeks, the Asian country has banned imports from plants in Ecuador, Brazil and Indonesia, disrupting trading channels.

While cold-storage facilities and meat-processing plants are ideal environments for the virus to thrive, there has been no concrete evidence the virus can be transmitted through food and packaging, and experts remain doubtful that it’s a major threat.

Still, it’s unclear what impact Beijing’s recent restrictions will have on the $220 billion global cold-chain industry. Contaminated items continue to grab the spotlight and stoke consumer fears, such as in June when a fresh outbreak of cases in Beijing triggered a nationwide boycott of salmon.

China’s top virus expert in August warned that the government should prevent coronavirus from spreading into the country through imported frozen food, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is “not aware of any evidence” to suggest that food can transmit the respiratory virus.

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