Hong Kong authorities have detected COVID-19 in samples taken from packaging of frozen beef and pork skin imported from Brazil and Poland respectively. 

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) collected 36 samples out of 1,100 cartons of frozen beef and found one outer packaging and two inner packaging samples to be COVID-19 positive, according to a report by Reuters.

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Similarly, the CFS took 12 samples from almost 300 cartons of frozen pork skin imported from Poland via see and found one inner packaging sample to be positive for the infection. 

“The CFS has ordered the importers concerned to dispose the beef and pork skin of the same batches. In addition, the CFS will step up the sampling of similar products for testing,” the government informed on Monday.

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Hong Kong, like mainland China, has practised a ‘dynamic zero COVID’ strategy. The recent wave of the infection, believed to be fuelled by the highly contagious omicron variant, has witnessed a steep rise in its numbers, reaching 7,533 cases on Monday and overwhelming hospitals. 

The city is operating under its strictest curbs on travel, business and public activity since the pandemic began. In place since Feb. 10, they also prohibit gatherings of more than two households. Restaurants, hair salons and religious sites were ordered closed, reported Associated Press.

Hong Kong has been monitoring frozen food imports for the presence of the virus since 2020. Apart from pork and beef, COVID was also detected among samples of pomfret fish in August last year and cuttlefish in November, according to the Reuters report.

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The World Health Organisation has said that there is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the health body has said. 

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Raw foods must be handled with care and by following proper hygiene. “The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed at temperatures similar to that of other known viruses and bacteria found in food. Foods such as meat, poultry and eggs should always be thoroughly cooked to at least 70°C. Before cooking, raw animal products should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with cooked foods,” the WHO noted.

China is the only country that cites frozen food packaging as a risk of spreading COVID-19. This came after it found multiple cases of the virus on chilled food packaging.