Chinese food inspectors have been paying close attention to the risk of COVID-19 on imported food packaging for the past few months. This is due to the fact that back in August, food inspectors in China reported finding traces of COVID-19 on the packaging of imported food items. After investigating into the findings, the consensus was that acquiring COVID-19 from the packaging was unlikely. This was partially based on the fact that workers who came into contact with the tainted packaging did not end up being diagnosed with COVID-19. However, investigations have continued on since then in order to assess transmission possibilities from packaging, particularly from items imported from overseas.
More traces found
Last month, China reported that it continues to find traces of COVID-19 on the packaging of imported goods. COVID-19 has been detected in shrimp from Saudi Arabia, fish from India, beef from Brazil and Argentina and pork from Germany.
The shipment in question came into the port of Shanghai and part of it went into cold storage in Nanjing City on November 9. Before the shipment continued on and entered the market for sale, food inspectors in Nanjing City conducted testing on the outer packaging of the items and found COVID-19 traces.
In response to China’s findings, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has stated that current research indicates that becoming infected with COVID-19 via pork packaging is unlikely. Argentina has also responded to the allegations with the National Service of Agri-Food Health and Quality (SENASA) saying it would be conducting an investigation.
Is COVID-19 on food packaging a risk?
To date, despite the findings in China, Health Canada continues to state that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from packaging is extremely low. According to Health Canada, the main mode of COVID-19 transmission is from an infected person to other people through respiratory droplets and aerosols that are created when the infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts or talks. Health Canada states, “We know that the virus is most frequently transmitted when people are in close contact with others who are infected with the virus (either with or without symptoms).”
This means that food businesses in Canada must remain cautious and follow COVID-19 protocols, but that COVID-19 transmission from packaging is low risk at this time. Should investigations and research reveal that contracting COVID-19 from packaging is a significant possibility or risk, the health guidelines will be updated.
The Canadian Institute of Food Safety will continue to provide updates on the latest about COVID-19 transmission as they become available.