South-eastern Chinese city Shenzhen says chicken imported from Brazil tests positive for coronavirus

A woman looks at frozen food products in a supermarket in Beijing, China, on Aug 13, 2020.
A woman looks at frozen food products in a supermarket in Beijing, China, on Aug 13, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (REUTERS) – A sample of frozen chicken wings imported into the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen from Brazil has tested positive for coronavirus, the city government said in a notice on Thursday (Aug 13).

Local disease control centres tested a surface sample taken from the chicken wings as part of routine screenings carried out on meat and seafood imports since June, when a new outbreak in Beijing was linked to the city’s Xinfadi seafood market.

The discovery came a day after traces of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 were found on the packaging of frozen shrimp from Ecuador. China has been stepping up screenings at ports amid the concerns over food imports.

Shenzhen’s health authorities traced and tested everyone who might have come into contact with potentially contaminated food products, and also tested food products stored near the infected batch. All the results were negative, the notice said.

The Brazilian embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"It is hard to say at which stage the frozen chicken got infected," said a China-based official at a Brazilian meat exporter.

The Shenzhen Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters said the public needed to remain cautious when it comes to imported meat and seafood, and must take precautions in order to reduce infection risks.

In addition to screening all meat and seafood containers coming into major ports in recent months, China has suspended some meat imports from various origins, including Brazil, since mid-June.

The first cluster of Covid-19 cases was also linked to the Huanan seafood market in the city of Wuhan. Initial studies suggested that the virus originated in animal products on sale at the market.

 
 
 

However, Dr Li Fengqin, who heads a microbiology lab at the China National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment, told reporters in June that contaminated food put in cold storage could be a potential source of transmission.

Viruses can survive up to two years at temperatures of -20 deg C, but scientists say there is no strong evidence so far the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can spread via frozen food.