In August, food inspectors in China were reporting finding traces of COVID-19 on packaging from imported food items. The initial findings indicated that acquiring COVID-19 from 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 the novel coronavirus. Despite these initial findings, investigations were to continue in order to assess transmission possibilities from packaging.
This week, China has reported that it continues to find traces of COVID-19 on the packaging of imported goods. COVID-19 has been detected on the following imported packages:
- shrimp from Saudi Arabia
- fish from India
- beef from Brazil and Argentina
- 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 the 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.
Can COVID-19 be contracted from food packaging?
To date, despite the findings in China, the overall consensus from Australian health officials is that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from packaging remains extremely low. The Australian Department of Health emphasizes that the main ways that COVID-19 is spread and contracted is through:
- close contact with an infectious person
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- touching surfaces that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face
This means that food businesses within Australia must remain cautious and follow COVID-19 protocols, but that COVID-19 transmission from packaging remains low 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 Australian Institute of Food Safety will continue to provide updates on the latest about COVID-19 transmission as they become available.