Health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have said the possibility of catching the virus through food is low.
Shenzhen health authorities immediately traced and tested people who might have come into contact with the product, and all results came back negative; all related products in stock have been sealed off and tested negative, the statement said.
Authorities are now tracing related products from the same brand that have already been sold, and have disinfected the area where the contaminated chicken wings were stored.
The Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) said in a statement that it is analyzing the incident and reiterated that “there is no scientific evidence that meat transmits the virus.”
“It is not yet clear when the packaging was contaminated, and whether it occurred during the export transportation process,” ABPA added.
The Brazilian agriculture ministry released a note stating that it has not been officially notified by Chinese authorities of the incident.
Brazil has so far reported more than 3.1 million coronavirus cases, the second highest in the world after the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.
News of the contaminated chicken wings comes a day after coronavirus was found on the packaging of shrimps imported from Ecuador, another South American country, at a restaurant in eastern Anhui province during a routine inspection, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported.
‘No evidence’ of food transmission
Both organizations point out that the coronavirus spreads mostly person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
“There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food; they need an animal or human host to multiply,” the WHO says.
David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the imported food products that tested positive in China were almost certain to have been contaminated during packaging.
But he said it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re infectious — the nucleic acid tests could be picking up the RNA of dead virus. These remnants of the virus are known to have caused false positive results on patients who have recovered from the coronavirus, such as in South Korea.
If the virus taken from the food products can be grown in labs, however, then they are infectious, he said, adding that the coronavirus can survive freezing temperatures and still be active when thawed.
Stepped up screening
Chinese authorities have increased screening of imported meat and seafood products since June, when a coronavirus outbreak in Beijing emerged from the city’s largest wholesale food market.
Wu said the chopping board could instead have been contaminated by an infected owner or customers, or other products that carried the virus.
The headline on this story has been updated to add more context.
Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.