China calls for tighter guidelines to help in COVID-19 prevention

China calls for tighter food import guidelines to help in Covid-19 prevention

China is seeking to impose virtual ‘spot checks’ on incoming food imports in addition to tightening cold chain guidelines as part of its Covid-19 prevention measures, reports the online publication Food Navigator-Asia.

This is reportedly in response to both the approaching winter season and cases of the virus being discovered on frozen food items.

The news site stated that at least eight frozen food products were reported to test positive for Covid-19 between Nov 6-13 as well as five more which were reported on Nov 18.

China was reported to have said that it has found the virus on imports from about 20 countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, New Zealand.

“In order to effectively prevent Covid-19 from entering the country via cold chain foods [as many have tested positive recently] the first step is to strengthen the control at the source- the General Administration of Customs China (GACC) has communicated with the competent authorities in the exporting countries on this to urge adherence to international (FAO and WHO) food industry guidelines,” Bi Kexin, the director of the GACC Import and Export Food Safety Bureau, was quoted as having said.

“We will also be making use of long-distance video monitoring and inspections systems to conduct long-distance virtual checks and inspections on the relevant exporting authorities and food export businesses so as to ensure safety measures are adhered to, as well as conduct spot checks,”

He is also reported as saying that China shared new cold chain guidelines with all 109 countries that import to China.

However, not everyone agrees that the cold chain is indeed the source of the problem. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) has not changed its position that food packaging is unlikely to be a cause of Covid-19

Likewise, the Singapore Food Authority was also cited as maintaining the position that there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by packaging or food.

However, Food Navigator-Asia pointed out that, in addition to China’s studies, one Singapore study found that the virus could survive for 21 days even after being frozen or refrigerated.

Still, other countries are asking for more evidence. In a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting early in November, several countries led by Canada called for better justification for the testing and banning of imported food.