The government is denying reports that China has banned seafood imports from three Ecuadorian companies. On Wednesday, Chinese customs agents in the port cities of Dalian and Xiamen told government-owned media that they found traces of the coronavirus on packaging containing shrimp and fish.
“There has been no ban and shipments of shrimp to China continue,” Minister of Production and Foreign Trade Ivan Ontaneda said Friday. “Chinese customs alerted us to the fact that they had detected traces of inactive virus on the packaging materials but this posed no risk to the contents of the shipment. The cooling and freezing process kills the Covid-19 virus.”
Ontaneda said the companies shipping the shrimp assured Chinese authorities that they would add additional sanitation procedures to clean the exteior of packaging and the Chinese agreed this would be adequate.
According to Ontaneda, Ecuador Health Minister Juan Zevallos spoke directly to the health officer at the Xiamen port and both agreed that there was no health risk. “We pointed out that there is no scientific evidence that the virus spreads through food, let alone when we’re talking about frozen shrimp that has been at sea for 50 days at a temperature of -20 Celsius “.
News reports circulated Thursday that Chinese customs authority said it was temporarily blocking imports of Ecuadorian shrimp because of the contamination. The reports were erroneous, according to Ontaneda.
The emergence of a coronavirus cluster in Beijing last month has led to increased scrutiny of imported food, after the virus was found on a cutting board used to prepare imported salmon at the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale market.
China has banned imports from a number of overseas food producers that have reported virus outbreaks, including top U.S. poultry exporter Tyson Foods and German meat company Toennies.
The country has also launched a nationwide campaign to test imported refrigerated food products from “high-risk countries”. Chinese customs authorities have tested more than 220,000 samples from food products, packaging and the environment surrounding them since the discovery of the Xinfadi cluster.