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COVID-19 Found on Frozen Seafood Outer Packaging With Unknown Origins

The source for this news came from Reuters and SCMP, but they were both misleading in some ways, so here’s a summary of what actually matters in that article:

  1. COVID-19 virus found on frozen seafood packaging in eastern Chinese port city of Yantai 
  2. Yantai city government says this was imported, and the shipment landed in Dalian
  3. Nobody knows where this actually came from for some reason
  4. Some of the seafood was already processed for export, but the rest haven’t entered the market. 
  5. Everybody who handled the goods is under quarantine and tested negative for COVID-19. 
  6. It’s good practice to wipe packaging of frozen food and wash your hands yadayada. 

So why the hell is the original article misleading? Well, “Coronavirus found on frozen seafood in China” implies that the virus can be found inside our seafood, or that the detected virus came from China. Both are not true if you read the article; the virus is found on the packaging, and the virus origin is unknown. 

And to make this even more misleading, Reuters added this random paragraph in:

“In July, customs officers in Dalian, a major port in the northeastern province of Liaoning, found the coronavirus in the packaging of frozen shrimps imported from Ecuador, and China then suspended imports from three Ecuadorean shrimp producers.”

So to be clear, the Ecuadorean imports are unlikely to have anything to do with the virus detected in Aug 2020. Because they were supposed to be suspended. 

Does the incident in July 2020 have anything to do with the Ecuador-China dispute near the Galapagos Islands? Maybe. Either way, that’s a separate topic.

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14 Aug 2020 Edit: CDC Experts Not Worried, But Shenzhen Government Cautions Consumers

What’s interesting is the use of the word “probably” in a CNA article titled “You probably won’t catch COVID-19 from frozen food, say experts“. So what they’re saying is, the chance isn’t zero. Interestingly, the article title also seems to conveniently ignore the Shenzhen government advice. 

Anyway, the important part is that the lab procedures used in China search for RNA. But RNA is only a proxy for the presence of the virus since it can leave behind bits of genetic material even after it has been destroyed. 

Which will probably happen, since it’s unlikely that the virus can survive a cross-continental journey while frozen, survive being cooked, survive ultra-acidic human digestive tracts, then go to your nose or mouth. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s possible to spread through contaminated surfaces, but it’s not known to be the main ways it gets around, and avoiding contact with other people is a better use of your time. 

For dangerous, viable virus to stay on food or packaging, researchers still need to do more tests to show that it can replicate, but those tests are logistically challenging.

The wording on the CNA news article regarding the report from the Shenzhen Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters Office was incredibly confusing, so I went to check the source

SARS-CoV-2 was found on the surface (not clear whether this meant the wings or packaging) of a batch of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil during an inspection in Longgang Distract on Tuesday. All analysed samples of packaged goods were negative for coronavirus RNA. 

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But unlike the CDC, the Shenzhen source cautions consumers about imported frozen products. 

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