China steps up checks after coronavirus fruit finds

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China has tightened import rules after discovering the virus that causes COVID-19 on fruit packaging from Vietnam and Thailand.

At least nine Chinese cities have recorded positive coronavirus tests for Vietnam’s dragon fruit and Thailand’s longan, according to media reports.

China had already stopped at least some dragon fruit imports from Vietnam until the end of January due to discoveries of coronavirus in late December.

Authorities have now started to control imported food products, temporarily shut down food stores and quarantine those who purchased the fruit in question.

In September last year, China detected the SARS-CoV-2 virus on packaging and boxes containing dragon fruit imported from Vietnam and suspended imports for a week.

These steps are being taken despite organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claiming that the virus that causes COVID-19 is not a direct food security problem.

Current data indicates that neither food nor food packaging is a route for the spread of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food or on surfaces. Once in the environment, viruses degrade and become less infectious, as recommended.

Detection of virus or viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) remains on food and packaging shows evidence of previous contamination, but there is no confirmation that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted through food or packaging and causes illness in those who touch them.

Global discontent
The United States was one of many countries that first expressed concerns about China’s approach to COVID-19 at a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in November 2020 .

Australia; Canada; the European Union; India and Russia have also expressed unease over the situation. A specific WTO trade problem was supported by Brazil; Japan; Kenya; Mexico; New Zealand; Paraguay; Switzerland and United Kingdom.

China’s COVID-19 restrictions since June 2020 include exporter reporting requirements, suspension of imports from facilities with worker cases of COVID-19, point-of-entry testing and releases for positive nucleic acid test results.

Additional measures included testing and disinfection of imported products; mandatory commercial declarations or modifications of commercial contracts; virtual audits to maintain or regain market access; and requests from overseas food factories to voluntarily suspend exports after SARS-CoV-2 is detected among workers.

China has reportedly found the COVID-19 virus in food imports from India, the United States and Canada following nucleic acid tests on imported food and packaging. As of June 2021, Customs had detected 26 positive samples of the COVID-19 virus linked to exports of packaged products such as chicken wings, seafood and fish.

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