China Halts Salmon Imports On COVID-19 Transmission Concerns

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, European salmon exporters are prevented from exporting to China while authorities study the potential link with a new cluster of COVID-19 in Beijing after the virus was detected on cutting boards that were used to butcher imported salmon.

This is precisely the scenario that I discussed in “COVID-19 and Food Safety In Processed Meat” on 1 May, and in my short and detailed YouTube videos.

This is right down my field of expertise. I am the last person who supports the use of biosecurity as a barrier to trade – that was why I was so keen to leave Biosecurity Australia (formerly within AQIS). But this is the very concern that I have been highlighting at MacroEdgo.

Rightfully, the quoted experts are saying that fish, or any seafood, are highly unlikely to be infected by the virus. It is almost certainly an issue of contamination either prior to export or in the market environment.

EITHER WAY this highlights the main point that I way been making – it is not sufficient for authorities to simply say “there is no evidence” the coronavirus is transmitted with food and that be the end of it. I must admit that I would consider seafood a lower risk for contamination, compared with pork and beef especially, because the small size of the animals permits greater mechanisation and therefore less contact with people. If it is found that the salmon were contaminated during processing, then all else being equal I would have to consider the risk with uncooked pork and beef greater.

Finally, yes Australia does import uncooked salmon from Europe in fillets, etc. But I would suggest that everybody be very careful with all forms of processed meat – remember the cluster at the Victorian processor took around a month to uncover and by that time almost 20% of staff had been infected.

This is my risk management strategy (most of it is standard and would be on the audit list of a food inspector in most developed countries, but that is not how we live our normal lives in our homes): I am not eating any form of uncooked meat of any type, I am handling all uncooked meat very carefully to try to minimise splashing, I am trying to have a clear space (as best I can) where I prepare the meat and where I clean up utensils to minimise the chances of small droplets landing on other surfaces which may not get cleaned, I am wiping down bench space around work areas with mild disinfectant and/or warm soapy water, I am being careful to not touch my face or other skin surfaces while my hands are contaminated, and I wash my hands thoroughly with disinfectant hand wash regularly through any preparation and especially when I have finished touching uncooked meat. But this can sometimes be difficult to achieve, and accidents happen and that will be the subject of further videos in my series.

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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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