The discovery of the coronavirus on fish cutting boards at Beijing’s Xinfadi seafood market has led to a new cluster of COVID-19 infections, causing Chinese authorities to halt imports of fresh seafood products, including salmon from Europe
The fear of a potential connection between salmon and the virus has resulted in the removal of imported seafood products from supermarket shelves, and a decline in sales of imported seafood across China.
However, seafood trade groups in the United States and Europe are disputing this theory, citing numerous scientific studies which state that there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted via food or water, and no link between seafood and the virus.
The Issue at Hand
SeafoodSource reports that imported seafood across China has plummeted, with salmon bearing the brunt of the impact due to its popularity in sushi dishes. Although there is no formal ban or import restriction in place, seafood traders have confirmed that Beijing has halted imports of all fresh seafood products, according to the South China Morning Post.
European air freight carrier Cargolux circulated an internal memo saying that a temporary ban has been put on all perishable shipments to various airports in China.
The Fear Factor
Top Chinese medical experts have warned the public to avoid eating salmon, with Zeng Guang, a senior expert with the National Health Commission, saying that the public has yet to find out whether human beings transmitted the virus to salmon or whether salmon contracted the virus first.
Wu Zunyou, China’s Center for Diseases Prevention and Control Chief Epidemiologist, said that the virus can survive on the surface of frozen food for up to three months, and that the agency “highly suspects” contaminated goods as the source of the latest outbreak.
Despite the alarm, numerous seafood trade groups, including the National Fisheries Institute, which represents the U.S. seafood industry, and the Norwegian Seafood Council, are fighting back against the perceived misinformation. They maintain that there is no connection between seafood and COVID-19, and that food has not been implicated in the transmission of the virus.
Additionally, scientific studies from a range of international organizations, including the World Health Organization, have found no evidence of the virus being transmitted through seafood.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is making its own effort to clarify the situation, stating that there is no evidence to suggest that salmon is the host or intermediate host of the coronavirus. Similarly, the Norwegian Seafood Council has confirmed that Norwegian seafood is safe, and that there are no known cases of infection via food or water.
While the outbreak in Beijing is causing uncertainty and speculation, the origins of this new outbreak remain unclear, and the scientific community continues to stress that there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can infect or be passed along to other humans through aquatic animals.