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Imported shrimp removed from shelves

By Wang Xiaodong | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-07-13 09:41

Imported shrimp from three Ecuadorian companies are being pulled off shelves across China after the novel coronavirus was detected on packaging.

To eliminate epidemic and food safety risks, China has suspended imports from the three producers. Six samples recently collected from inside shipping containers and the outer packaging of frozen white shrimp tested positive for the coronavirus, the General Administration of Customs, the National Health Commission and the State Administration for Market Regulation said in a notice released on Friday.

Samples of the shrimp and their interior packaging tested negative, the notice said.

"The testing result indicated risks of novel coronavirus contamination for external packaging of products from the companies and the containers used to ship them, as well as inadequate implementation of food safety management systems by the enterprises," it said.

In addition to suspending imports from the three companies, customs across China must intensify supervision to make sure all frozen shrimp they produced after March 12 are returned to Ecuador or recalled from the domestic market to eliminate food safety risks and protect public health, the notice said.

Recalled products and those that cannot be returned to Ecuadorian exporters will be destroyed properly, it said.

After the notice was released, the Zhejiang Provincial Administration for Market Regulation began inspecting frozen shrimp imported from Ecuador across the province, and 78 metric tons of related products were removed from shop shelves by noon on Saturday, the administration said.

In Shanghai, the city's administration for market regulation has told its branches across the city to urge distributors and sellers to immediately suspend the sale of frozen shrimp produced by the three companies after March 12 and to cooperate in the inspection of samples.

JD, a major Chinese e-commerce platform, said it has started a new round of testing for the novel coronavirus on Ecuadorian white shrimp products, including the packaging, sold on the platform.

It has completed novel coronavirus testing on hundreds of batches of meat and seafood products, including white shrimp imported from Ecuador, sold on the platform since mid-June, and all have tested negative, it said.

Li Ning, deputy director of the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, said food may be contaminated by the novel coronavirus in the surrounding environment or by food processing staff, although the risks of virus transmission via food are low.

The risks of novel coronavirus transmission via imported food products have been a source of increased public concern since a recent COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing linked to a major wholesale food market in the capital that has resulted in 335 confirmed cases since June 11. Before the outbreak, Beijing had reported no domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases for nearly two months.

Bi Kexin, head of import and export food safety at the General Administration of Customs, said customs across China have conducted risk monitoring for the virus on imported cold-chain food since the start of the outbreak in Beijing last month. Nearly 228,000 samples, including food and packages, had been tested by Thursday, with all but the six samples from Ecuador testing negative, he said.

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