Food and health authorities in Hong Kong have found traces of the coronavirus on imported food for just the second time since regular testing began – in this case, on sliced cuttlefish from Malaysia that had not yet entered the market.
The discovery was made during regular precautionary testing by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) on Tuesday (Nov 2), and was announced a day later. The result prompted a mandatory testing notice for all those who had visited the storage site at Kerry Cold Store (Hong Kong) Limited in Kwai Chung’s Kerry TC Warehouse 1 since last Friday.
The department said its Centre for Food Safety (CFS) collected 12 samples from the surface of the frozen cuttlefish slices and their packaging from a batch of 390 boxes — totalling around 3,100kg — that was imported from Malaysia by sea.
One frozen cuttlefish surface sample and one inner packaging sample returned positive results for the virus. The batch of cuttlefish slices has been inside the warehouse in Kwai Chung since its arrival, and has not entered the market.
Upon learning of the test results on Tuesday evening, the CFS and the CHP conducted a site visit on Wednesday and asked the operator to conduct thorough cleaning and disinfection, and instructed them to dispose of the rest of the cuttlefish from the same batch.
The positive result is only the second — after one involving frozen pomfret fish last August — to be detected out of over 20,000 samples tested since last year.
“The Covid-19 virus is predominantly transmitted through droplets and cannot multiply in food or food packaging. According to current scientific knowledge, the World Health Organisation and food safety assessment authorities in overseas countries considered that it is unlikely that the Covid-19 virus can be transmitted to humans via food consumption,” the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said in a statement.
“Nevertheless, members of the public should always observe personal, food and environmental hygiene,” it added.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.