Can Covid-19 Actually Travel on Frozen Food Packages?
Consumers of frozen food were recently left confused and concerned after several alarming reports of Covid-19 traces being found on food packaging. In China, citizens were told to use caution when buying imported frozen food after a package with frozen chicken wings had coronavirus traces found on it. Also in China, a package with frozen seafood was found contaminated with the virus. In New Zeland, authorities are investigating whether the recent outbreak originated in a frozen food shipment that was unpacked by a man later found to be sick with Covid-19.
Covid-19 spreads via the respiratory system, and through infected droplets. These droplets could, potentially, fall down onto a surface, and remain alive on it. Research published in April showed that the virus could be found on a surface even days after it was originated. The authors found that hotter temperatures make the virus less likely to survive longer.
The virus could, theoretically, live on a frozen surface, but in order for a person to get infected, a series of very specific events have to occur. The virus would have to survive an international trip, and changes in temperature. The infected package would then have to be touched by a person in a way that the virus could be transferred onto his hand. From his hands, the virus would then have to get through his mouth or nose into his respiratory system, doing all that while keeping a strong enough viral-load to cause an infection. This is a very unlikely chain of events.
Indeed, after finding the contaminated package of chicken wings, the Chinese authorities tested every person who was exposed to the shipment. They were all negative.
‘’In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small…’’, wrote Prof. Emanuel Goldman, a microbiologist at New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers University. “…and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze (within 1–2 h).”, he adds.
And what about getting infected after heating the food and eating it? “The risks of that happening are incredibly small’’, Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University told the NY Times. The act of heating the food should almost certainly take care of any virus traces that somehow, miraculously, managed to survive.
Experts agree: although recent developments, people can continue purchasing and eating frozen food safely.
So what should you do? Simple. Keep washing your hands and keep good hygiene. If you do that, you would have no problem enjoying your frozen chicken wings, frozen seafood, or frozen vegan pizza.