China announces import measures to respond to nucleic acid positives of COVID-19 detected from the outer packaging of frozen white leg shrimp from Ecuador

According to CCTV news, the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of China held a press conference on the afternoon of 10 July. At the meeting, Mr Ke-Xin Bi, Director of the Import and Export Food Safety Bureau of the General Administration of Customs, informed that in order to prevent the risk of introducing COVID-19 through imported cold chain foods into the country, Customs had launched inspections for novel coronavirus in imported foods.

As of midnight on July 9, China's Customs had inspected 227,934 samples, including 43,964 product samples, 147,568 inner and outer packaging samples, and 36,402 environmental samples.

On 3 July, Customs in Dalian detected nucleic acid positives of COVID-19 in one of the samples collected from the inner wall of containers of the frozen white leg shrimp produced with Ecuadorian registration No. 24887 and three outer packaging samples of the frozen white leg shrimp produced with Ecuadorian registration No. 681.

On the same day, the Customs in Xiamen detected nucleic acid positives of the novel coronavirus in two samples of frozen white leg shrimp produced with the Ecuadorian registration number 654. Nucleic acid tests of the shrimp body and the internal packaging were both negative, and all the other 227,928 samples tested negative.

Experts believe that the positive results did not represent infectious virus, but reflected that food safety management systems in the relevant enterprises were not in order. In order to protect the health of consumers, the General Administration of Customs decided to suspend the registration of the relevant Ecuadorian enterprises, suspend the import and export of the products of the relevant enterprises, and take measures such as the return of goods and destruction of goods temporarily detained.

According to the current knowledge, 2019-nCoV cannot infect aquatic animals, but the virus or its nucleic acid may contaminate products during farming, harvesting, processing, packaging, and shipment. The announcement of China’s Customs clearly indicated the positives were only detected on the inner walls of a container and the outer packaging materials with a positive rate of 0.0027% over 147,568 packaging samples. No positive was detected in the over 43,964 product samples themselves and the 36,402 environmental samples. It is speculated that the positives were contaminated by infected packers for outer packaging or porters, but not from the aquatic animals or the processing chain. As cold chains will protect the inactivation of virus or the degeneration of the nucleic acid, cold chain products will have a higher possibility of being detected after contamination with the virus. Basic biosecurity and food safety measures should be strengthened in handling and processing during the pandemic. Workers infected with 2019-nCoV should not be involved in the production chain of aquatic products until recovery. Any susceptible animals, such as bats, cats, minks, civet, etc., should be kept away from cold chains and products. Necessary disinfection measures should be strictly implemented.

NACA would like to remind our Members to strengthen safety management systems in the manufacture of aquatic products during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is reasonable to quarantine products from regions with an outbreak of COVID-19, but the public does not need to fear or be cynical about aquatic products. In contrast, with high contents of quality protein, high unsaturated fatty acids, and micronutrients, eating more aquatic products will better improve human immunity to prevent the disease.

References

Bondad-Reantaso MG, Mackinnon B, Hao B, Huang J, Tang-Nelson K, Surachetpong W, Alday-Sanz V, Salman M, Brun E, Karunasagar I, Hanson L, Sumption K, Barange M, Lovatelli A, Sunarto A, Fejzic N, Subasinghe R, Mathiesen ÁM, Shariff M. (2020). Viewpoint: SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19 in humans) is not known to infect aquatic food animals nor contaminate their products. Asian Fisheries Science, 33 (2020):74–78.

CCTV. 2020. Press Conference of Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council on the novel coronavirus positives found on the outer packaging of frozen shrimp from Ecuador. Mutual Concern of CCTV-13 News Channel, CCTV Network, July 10, 2020 18:39.

Chen Li-Jin and Xu Lu-Yi. 2020. Dr Jie Huang, NACA Director General: There is no need to be fussy about aquatic products. Caixin, June 15, 2020, 12:41

GACC. 2020. Notice on suspending the registration of three Ecuadorian manufacturing enterprises in China. The Notice No. 81 in 2020 by the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China.

Huang, J. (2020). Stringent biosecurity measures to be taken to prevent Glass PL in shrimp hatcheries. Aquapost, 2020-5-20.

Translation of the Notice No. 81 of 2020 by the General Administration of Customs, the People's Republic of China: Notice on suspending the registration of three Ecuadorian manufacturing enterprises in China

Customs recently detected six nucleic acid positives of the novel coronavirus from the samples collected on the inner walls of containers and the outer packaging of frozen shrimp imported from three Ecuadorian enterprises, including Industrial Pesquera Santa Priscila S.A. (registration No. 24887), Empacreci S.A. (Registration No. 681), and Empacadora Del Pacifico Sociedad Anonima Edpacif S.A. (Registration No. 654). The test results of both the shrimp body and inner packaging samples were negative. Through nucleic acid sequence analysis and expert judgment, the test results indicated that the container environment and packaging of the products of the three enterprises were at risk of being contaminated by the novel coronavirus, and that the food safety management system of the enterprises was not fully implemented. In order to eliminate risks of the hidden dangers and protect the health of the people, in accordance with the provisions of the Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China and its Implementing Regulations, as well as relevant customs regulations, the following announcement is made:

  1. The above three enterprises shall be suspended from registration in China.
  2. The import of the products of the three enterprises mentioned above shall be suspended, and the import declaration of the products of the three enterprises shall be suspended.
  3. The importer shall immediately recall the frozen shrimps produced by the above three enterprises after March 12, return the frozen shrimps temporarily detained by the customs after March 12 and destroy them, and provide the import and sales records of the goods to customs at the place of import. In case of refusal to implement the provisions, Customs shall deal with them in accordance with the Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China and its implementing regulations, as well as relevant customs rules.

This announcement shall come into effect as of the date of promulgation.

This is to announce.

The General Administration of Customs, People’s Republic of China

On July 10, 2020