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Home / Science / There’s low risk of food spreading Covid-19, experts say after salmon panic

There’s low risk of food spreading Covid-19, experts say after salmon panic

Questions are being raised over the potential dangers of food after coronavirus infections were traced to the chopping board of a seller of imported salmon at a market in Beijing.

science Updated: Jun 17, 2020 11:25 IST
Bloomberg | Posted by: Shankhyaneel Sarkar
Bloomberg | Posted by: Shankhyaneel Sarkar
Chile, the top seller of salmon after Norway, sought to persuade China that its fish is safe to import after orders were cancelled.
Chile, the top seller of salmon after Norway, sought to persuade China that its fish is safe to import after orders were cancelled. (REUTERS)

Food poses little risk of spreading the coronavirus, governments and industry groups from the US to Chile said, reassuring consumers after an outbreak in Beijing was blamed on imported fish.

The US Food and Drug Administration said it is “not aware of any evidence” to suggest that food can transmit the respiratory virus. The view was echoed by Kate Grusich, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said the poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces means “there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”

Chile, the top seller of salmon after Norway, sought to persuade China that its fish is safe to import after orders were cancelled. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority also said there were no known cases of infection via contaminated food.

Questions are being raised over the potential dangers of food after coronavirus infections were traced to the chopping board of a seller of imported salmon at a market in Beijing. While it’s possible an infected person contaminated the board, salmon has been taken off the shelves in major supermarkets while top experts are warning people not to consume the omega-3 rich fish.

There are only a couple of examples of where people have caught the coronavirus from animals. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that thoroughly cooked meat from healthy livestock is safe, but warns people to avoid meat from wild animals or sick livestock.

Health experts have confirmed that transmission can occur indirectly, by touching a contaminated surface or object, though the CDC said in late May that pathway probably isn’t the main way the virus spreads.

It’s unclear if the virus can be transmitted through frozen food that’s later thawed. David Hamer, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and a physician at Boston Medical Center, said that although there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted through food, more research is needed.

“That raises a whole lot of concerning prospects around the global movement of the food supply,” he said. “This could set off a panic if people think their food could be a cause of infection.”

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