China detects shrimp positive for Covid-19; suspends imports
The China state agency said samples taken from shipments of Industrial Pesquera Santa Priscila SA, Empacreci SA, and Empacadora Del Pacifico Sociedad Anonima Edpacif have yielded six positive Covid-19 results. However, coronavirus tests on the frozen shrimp and the inside of the packages were negative.
"After nucleic acid sequence analysis and expert evaluation, the results of the tests suggested that the environment of the container and the outside of the packages of the goods from the three companies were a risk of coronavirus contamination," the General Administration of Customs said in a statement on its website.
"The companies' food safety management system was not in order," it added.
Ecuador's Minister of Production and Foreign Trade, Iván Ontaneda, said that they will hold working meetings with Chinese authorities to strengthen the shrimp industry's biosafety protocols in line with their concerns.
"I want to be clear that it is not a sanction for the product, it is not a sanction for Ecuadorian shrimp, nor for the country, nor that Ecuadorian shrimp exports are suspended to China," he added to the press.
The findings are the first positive coronavirus results announced by Beijing since it began testing frozen food imports for the presence of the virus.
It has taken a total of 227,934 samples to date, the customs authority's food import officer, Bi Kexin, told reporters Friday, including samples of food products, their packaging and environment.
The positive shrimp samples were taken on July 3 from shipments at Dalian and Xiamen ports. The goods may have spent at least a month frozen in the container before arriving in China, said Gorjan Nikolik, a seafood analyst at Rabobank.
"Experts believe the results do not mean they are contagious, but that the companies' food safety management systems are not well implemented," Bi told reporters.
China began testing fresh and frozen foods after the coronavirus was found on salmon filleting chopping boards in a large Beijing market during a coronavirus outbreak among local workers.
Although experts have said there is no evidence that the virus can spread through food, many Chinese shoppers have stopped salmon imports and the fish has been recalled from supermarkets.
The customs authority said it suspended imports from the three producers to protect the health of consumers and "eliminate hidden dangers", and also ordered that shrimp produced by the companies after March 12 and already imported into China be recalled or destroyed.