U.S. Once Again Rebuffs China’s Attempt to Link Virus to Food

China is making further moves to try to link the spread of coronavirus and food shipments. And yet again, U.S. officials are rebuffing the attempt, emphasizing what’s considered to be the established science on the matter -- that no proof of that link exists.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a fresh statement on the matter after China said samples of imported shrimp tested positive for the virus.

“We have no evidence that Covid-19, a respiratory virus, is transmitted through food or food packaging,” FDA spokesman Peter Cassell said in an email.

China has been stirring the pot over whether the pathogen can spread through food or frozen products, drawing the connection against the advice of global health experts and authorities.

Last month, the Asian country pointed to imported salmon as a possible culprit for Beijing’s fresh Covid-19 outbreak, sparking a boycott of the fish as supermarkets took the produce off their shelves. China also began mass testing of cold food imports at ports, and blocked shipments from meat plants abroad that reported infections among workers.

In the latest move, China halted imports from three Ecuadorian plants linked to the shrimp samples. The announcement created a new level of uncertainty in the global meat, poultry and seafood trade that further shipments or sales could be disrupted.

Evidence suggests that it’s extremely unlikely for the virus to be transmitted through food, said Gorjan Nikolik, associate director of seafood at Rabobank.

“It’s a typical food scare” he said. “I expect them to be very short-lived.”

Chinese officials have also agreed with global experts that imported food poses a low risk of transmitting the virus. That’s led to confusion overseas over why China is continuing to test and halt shipments.

Tens of thousands of workers at global food facilities have caught the virus, and dozens have died. That’s raising questions over whether all those plants could possibly see restrictions from China.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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