SFA 'not aware' of evidence COVID-19 virus can be transmitted to humans via food, equipment or food packaging

SFA 'not aware' of evidence COVID-19 virus can be transmitted to humans via food, equipment or food packaging

A woman looks at frozen food products in a supermarket in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at frozen food products in a supermarket following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, August 13, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) on Friday (Aug 14) said it was not aware of any evidence that suggested the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted to humans via food, equipment or food packaging. 

The agency added that this was in line with the current state of knowledge across scientific communities and public health authorities worldwide, in response to CNA’s queries after several reports of the novel coronavirus being found on frozen food and on packaging in China. 

SFA said it was monitoring developments closely and would “take the necessary actions to safeguard food safety in Singapore”.

It previously stated similar views in June amid reports that the novel coronavirus was found on chopping boards used for salmon at Beijing's Xinfadi market.

READ: WHO downplays danger of coronavirus latching on to food packaging

There have been at least three instances of the novel coronavirus being detected on frozen food or its packaging in China in the past week.

A sample of frozen chicken wings imported into Shenzhen from Brazil had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, after a city in Anhui province found the same virus on the packaging for shrimps from Ecuador.

READ: Coronavirus found on frozen seafood packaging in China

Before that, authorities in China found the novel coronavirus on the packaging of imported frozen seafood that arrived in Yantai, a port city in Shandong, from Dalian. 

The World Health Organization on Thursday downplayed the risk of the virus entering the food chain.

Viruses can survive up to two years at temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius, but scientists and officials say there is no strong evidence so far the novel coronavirus can spread via frozen food.

"People should not fear food, food packaging or delivery of food," the World Health Organization's head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing.

"There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus. And people should feel comfortable and safe."

ENVIRONMENT CAN BE "EASILY CONTAMINATED" WITH COVID-19 VIRUS: SFA

SFA noted however, the environment people interact with can be “easily contaminated” with the COVID-19 virus.

“In general, contact with food or food packaging and equipment is no different from contact with other non-food packaging and the environment,” it said, referring to common touch surfaces such as lift buttons and door knobs.

“As such, SFA continues to emphasise the importance of good public and personal hygiene practices to uphold a high level of public health standards in Singapore," it said, outlining several measures people could adopt.

These include:

- Seeking medical attention promptly and staying home if unwell

- Washing hands with soap and water regularly, including before eating and after going to the toilet

- Cooking food thoroughly before eating

- Avoid touching your face with your hands

- Covering mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throwing the tissue away into a bin immediately

- Not engaging in any food handling/preparation if unwell

- Not sharing food/drinks with others

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Source: CNA/aa(rw)

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