The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it is aware of reports that China will begin testing foods for Coronavirus.
Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner of Food Policy and Response at the FDA, wrote on Twitter that there is currently no evidence of the transmission of COVID-19 through food and no known or suspected cases linked to food.
“The FDA is aware of reports that China will begin testing foods particular produce, seafood and meat for COVID-19. We continue to review all available science as we assess the virus that causes COVID-19. Following standard hygiene practices, safe food handling, and using cooking practices that protect us from foodborne illness remain important,” he posted.
Yiannas directed people to the FDA’s frequently asked questions page for more information.
Link to imported salmon rejected
Beijing has reported more than 100 coronavirus cases in the past week after going almost two months without an infection. The spike is thought to have started at Xinfadi, one of the biggest wholesale food markets in Asia.
Following the new cases of COVID-19 some reports made a link to imported salmon and findings on a cutting board, supposedly used to prepare the fish in a wholesale market. Out of 40 positive samples from tests of employees and the environment at the market, one was taken from a cutting board used for fileting salmon.
The Norwegian Seafood Council has reassured consumers and buyers of Norwegian seafood about the safety of such products after what it called “unsubstantiated rumors” on the source of infection.
“Our understanding is that comprehensive control of fresh foods has been introduced to any goods going into Beijing. Of course, the links being made in some media between salmon and the virus outbreak is unfortunate. We need facts on the table, and both WHO, FAO and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority are clear in their communication regarding this,” said Anders Nordøy Snellingen, manager of the Norwegian Seafood Council’s global operations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued guidance stating there is no evidence of food or packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19 and a question and answer section on the impact on fisheries and aquaculture.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) reports there are no known cases of infection via contaminated food, imported food or water so fish and seafood from Norway are safe to eat.
Hong Kong’s testing of imported salmon negative
It is uncertain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces. Research indicates that all coronaviruses can survive on surfaces from a few hours to several days. This will vary under different conditions, such as type of surface, temperature, sunlight and air humidity, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI).
The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) said seafood, like other surfaces, may become contaminated if adequate food handling and sanitation measures are not in place, or when handled by an infected person. Any link to salmon may be the result of cross-contamination. GSI members include AquaChile, Australis Seafoods, Bakkafrost, Blumar, Cermaq, Grieg Seafood, Mowi, Multiexport Foods, New Zealand King Salmon, Nova Sea, Salmones Austral, Camanchaca, Tassal and Ventisqueros.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong tested 16 salmon samples this week from Norway, Chile, Ireland, Iceland, and Denmark and all of them were negative for coronavirus.
The agency said in view of recent media reports that coronavirus was detected on chopping boards used for cutting salmon during a COVID-19 case investigation in Beijing, it took the samples from import and wholesale levels from different countries.