- Three ice cream samples tested positive for coronavirus in China
- Coronavirus was found on frozen food packaging in China last year
- People should not fear food, food packaging or delivery of food: WHO
New Delhi: As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which was first reported in Wuhan province of China in December 2019, new discoveries linked to the virus continue to surprise the people worldwide. In a recent report, samples of a batch of ice cream produced by Tianjin Daqiaodao Food Company in China’s Tianjin city have tested positive for coronavirus. After the detection of coronavirus in the ice cream, the product has been sealed and recalled and all of the employees of the food company have been placed under quarantine and underwent testing following guidance from the Tianjin Center for Disease Control. NDTV spoke with Dr Ramana Dhara, Professor at Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Hyderabad and Dr Preeti Kumar, Vice President- Public Health System Support at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) to know whether coronavirus can spread through food and how much is the risk of transmission in such cases.
According to Dr Dhara, any level of contamination in the food produced by a company is not acceptable and is always a cause of concern since it exposes the poor hygiene standards maintained in the factory. However, as far as the coronavirus detection in the sample and the risk of spread is concerned, there is no need to panic because till now there has been no evidence suggesting transmission of the coronavirus through food. He said,
Any virus needs a vehicle to be carried into bodies and cause diseases. In the case of coronavirus, it is respiratory droplets. The virus itself is not a live particle, it is a protein particle and to be able to transmit from one place to another, it requires a biological fluid like respiratory droplets. I do not see how the coronavirus would reach the respiratory tract of a person from the ice-creams.
He further said that none of the medical organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) talk about food being the potential source of COVID-19 transmission. He added,
In case the child or a person smears the ice-cream or the food contaminated with coronavirus over their face, then theoretically, there may be some chance of the virus being inhaled by them. Eating food with coronavirus is not likely to cause any harm because it does not spread through the stomach and there are more chances that the stomach acid would make the virus inactive or dead.
While talking about the risk of transmission of COVID-19 through food, Dr Kumar said that that there have been numerous studies to ascertain the viability and stability of coronavirus on inanimate surfaces but most have concluded that the virus dies quickly. She further said,
In real life, the probability of transmission through food is extremely remote. Transmission through food packaging would depend on factors like someone coughed or sneezed near the food package and another person touched the package while the virus was still alive and then touched their own eyes, nose or mouth.
Dr Kumar, however, asserted that while preparing and handling food, proper measures like maintaining good hygiene, wearing mask and handwashing must be followed at all times.
Earlier in July, China suspended imports of frozen shrimp after the deadly virus was found on packages and the inner wall of a container. Then in August, living coronavirus was found on frozen food packaging in China. The WHO, said in August 2020, that people should not fear food, food packaging or delivery of food. It added that coronaviruses cannot multiply in food – they need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.