Goods disinfection and big data could avoid cold-chain transmitted COVID-19: experts

â–²Frozen fish Photo: Xinhua

The Chinese government announced that imported cold chain food must be thoroughly disinfected before going on sale, amid rising public concerns over recent incidents in which live coronavirus was detected on the outer packaging of imported cold chain food in three cities in two days. 

Imported cold chain food, loading and transporting carriers, and the inner and outer packaging will be thoroughly disinfected to achieve closed-loop control and traceability for the whole process, in order to minimize the risk of bringing in COVID-19 through imported cold-chain food, China’s State Council said on Monday. 

If an imported food product tests positive for COVID-19, it will be returned or destroyed in accordance with the regulations. 

If it tests negative, the customs department will organize and supervise the inspection site operator or the importing enterprise to disinfect the inner side of the container and the outer packaging of the imported cold chain food. 

After the disinfection is completed, the disinfection unit will issue a document certifying that the goods have been disinfected. Imported cold chain food cannot be sold on the market without this certificate.

On Sunday, Tianjin Municipality entered “wartime mode” after a worker in a local frozen food company who had contact with the outer packaging of imported frozen food was found to be infected with coronavirus.

Later, North China’s Taiyuan and East China’s Dezhou announced that imported frozen food packaging had tested positive for COVID-19 and the goods had been transferred from Tianjin after entering China. The live coronavirus survived nearly 20 days on the packaging before it was detected in Dezhou.

For more efficient tracking and recall of potentially infected cold-chain foods, Wang Hongwei, a professor at Renmin University of China’s School of Public Administration and Policy, suggested that advanced big data cold chain logistics technology could be leveraged as it has been in Shanghai.

In Shanghai, big data has been used to help combat the epidemic. To prevent growing risks from imported frozen seafood that carries coronavirus, a tracking system for frozen imported products has been integrated into the big data system, Yuan Yang of the market supervision office of the local government, told the Global Times.   

“Unlike human beings who can be monitored by routine body temperature checks and nucleic acid tests, you can’t do that with cold-chain products,” Wang noted. “More cities could apply similar big data tracking systems to trace the transportation route of the imported cold chain food.”

China has detected novel coronavirus on the packaging of frozen food and seen a number of related cases of industry workers who did not have effective protection in the past few months, including East China’s Qingdao, Dezhou and Yantai, South China’s Shenzhen, North China’s Taiyuan and Tianjin, and Northeast China’s Dalian.

China, the world’s biggest meat importer, imported 7.41 million tons of meat in the first three quarters of 2020. In September, China suspended imports from 56 cold-chain food companies in 19 countries and regions where workers had been infected with COVID-19.

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