spread of coronavirus
Image: Flickr/Daniel Orth

Can Imported Foods Spread the Coronavirus?

In the past few weeks, a number of people have raised concerns about another possible way that can transmit the coronavirus even from one country to another. Imported frozen foods, specifically the ones that come from countries with a high number of infections including Brazil and Norway were recently suspected to spread the coronavirus further.

However, the stance over the spread of the virus through frozen foods has been clarified by New Zealand – which was the country that was reported to have another outbreak due to a frozen food storage facility. After the news spread across the world, many people assumed that they can contract the coronavirus merely by storing frozen food.

On Tuesday, all such accusations were falsified. According to the researchers, while SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus responsible for causing the coronavirus infection, can somehow survive on frozen food, it can no longer cause an infection.

Previously, the research on the virus has already shown that the virus can be made dysfunctional or even killed in extreme temperatures. Therefore, even if the virus is present in the frozen food, it may no longer have the ability to divide and infect.

The professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University in Virginia, Amira Roess, has stated that no such studies show that imported foods can spread the coronavirus.

She further added that coronavirus was only detected in one of twenty-thousand frozen foods which were examined to see whether the virus can be present in it. Even in the item, the virus was found, it was not enough to transmit to a person and cause illness.

In a similar way, health officials from China have also assessed various frozen foods that have been assumed to carry the coronavirus including Ecuador and Norway’s frozen seafood. In their examination, they only found genetic material associated with SARS-CoV-2 on some of the foods.

Read also: Are Face Masks better Than Face Shields for Coronavirus? 

According to the officials, the presence of the material does not signify the risk of contracting the infection. To further investigate, people who were exposed to the foods or consumed them were also tested for the coronavirus infection but none of the people tested positive.

The associate dean for research at Texas State University’s College of Health Professions, Rodney Rohde, says that most viruses are unlikely to survive without a host. On surfaces like food packaging, they are most likely to die within a number of days or lose their ability to divide and cause an infection.

In addition, Rohde added that it should be noted that the novel coronavirus is sensitive and fragile. Even if it is in frozen foods, it is likely to become inviable or die because of constant shifts in temperature during storage and shipping.

Furthermore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has clarified that the primary route of spread is through the air or particular surfaces.

It is possible that a person touches a contaminated food packaging at a grocery store and then touches his face, which can cause infection but this is unlikely to happen. The CDC has clearly stated that  “currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19.”

So, the risk of the spread of coronavirus through imported frozen foods is very low. However, for extra precautions, wipe the foods before storage and leave groceries that do not require refrigeration outside for 48-72 hours. While shopping for food, wearing a mask and gloves can also make a big difference.