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Scientists found COVID-19 could survive on pieces of frozen meat and fish for up to 21 days following a study in Singapore. In the preliminary study, pieces of chicken, pork and salmon was injected with the deadly virus. The test sample was then exposed to typical conditions found during the transportation of meat around the world.
The food was stored between the standard refrigeration temperature of -4C, the standard freezing temperature of -20C as well as -80C.
Following 21 days coronavirus was still present in all the samples – highlighting the huge complexities that remain to eradicate the virus.
The study claims the results could go some way to explaining the resurgence of the virus in countries such as New Zealand.
The research project says contaminated food could be a “feasible source” of an outbreak but insisted it is “not a major infection route”.
Researchers say it highlights how important it is for food handlers to ensure they are following coronavirus safety rules.
They said: “An explanation is required for the re-emergence of COVID-19 outbreaks in regions with apparent local eradication.
“Recent outbreaks have emerged in Vietnam, New Zealand and parts of China where there had been no cases for some months.
“Importation of contaminated food and food packaging is a feasible source for such outbreaks and a source of clusters within existing outbreaks.
“While it can be confidently argued that transmission via contaminated food is not a major infection route, the potential for movement of contaminated items to a region with no COVID-19 and initiate an outbreak is an important hypothesis.
“An infected food handler has the potential to become an index case of a new outbreak.
“The international food market is massive and even a very unlikely event could be expected to occur from time to time.”
Earlier this month, a city in China discovered traces of coronavirus in cargoes of imported frozen food from South America.
A sample taken from the surface of frozen chicken wings imported into the southern city of Shenzhen from Brazil had tested positive for coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has downplayed any fears over the spread of the virus to humans from the food chain.
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The WHO says: “There is currently no confirmed case of COVID-19 transmitted through food or food packaging”.
The global health body adds there is no need to disinfect food packaging, but “hands should be properly washed after handling food packages and before eating”.
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