HONG KONG, Jan 19 (SCMP): Fresh questions have been raised over the risks of catching the coronavirus from food after traces were found in at least five samples of ice cream made in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin.
Last Thursday, authorities in Tianjin, neighbouring Beijing, said three samples of ice cream had been found to contain traces of Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease Covid-19.
An investigation suggested that Ukrainian milk powder used to make the ice cream was the likely source, after three samples of the powder and two further samples of ice creams from the same batch were also found to contain Sars-CoV-2, from more than 2,800 samples taken from the ice cream, packaging, manufacturing plants and retail stores.
Most of the potentially contaminated ice cream had been traced and recalled, but 21 ice creams remained unaccounted for, the authorities said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the possibility of catching Covid-19 from frozen food is low, but China has linked infections to imported food. In November, a truck driver, also from Tianjin, was infected with a strain of Covid-19 also found on pork imported from North America that he had handled, according to local authorities.
Discovering traces of the coronavirus in ice cream prompts new questions, given that the food is usually consumed directly when cold, according to Han Jie, an environmental science professor from China’s Xian Jiaotong University.
“The contamination of ice cream raw materials is different to the contamination that has happened previously during cold-chain food transportation and retail,” she said in an emailed response.
“Frozen foods are usually safe to eat after being treated with high temperatures, such as cooking. But ice cream would not be treated with high temperatures. Whether the virus can infect people through the digestive tract if it enters the body via food, as far as I know there is no conclusive evidence yet.”