The coronavirus can survive for up to three weeks on frozen meat and fish, according to a new study that warns about the danger of contaminated food in sparking new outbreaks of the disease.
A sample of the deadly virus was added to pieces of salmon, chicken and pork from supermarkets in Singapore that were sliced into cubes for the study, the Telegraph reported.
The fish and meat was stored in temperatures that simulated those in which food is transported between countries — 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit for standard refrigeration and minus 4 degrees for standard freezing, according to the news outlet.
After 21 days, the virus was still present on the samples, the scientists found.
This may explain outbreaks in countries where coronavirus cases have not been found in a long time — and could lead to future outbreaks, the scientists said.
“An explanation is required for the re-emergence of COVID-19 outbreaks in regions with apparent local eradication. Recent outbreaks have emerged in Vietnam, New Zealand and parts of China where there had been no cases for some months,” according to the study, which has not yet been peer reviewed.
“Importation of contaminated food and food packaging is a feasible source for such outbreaks and a source of clusters within existing outbreaks,” it said.
“While it can be confidently argued that transmission via contaminated food is not a major infection route, the potential for movement of contaminated items to a region with no COVID-19 and initiate an outbreak is an important hypothesis,” the study added.
“An infected food handler has the potential to become an index case of a new outbreak. The international food market is massive and even a very unlikely event could be expected to occur from time to time.”
Prof. James Wood, head of the veterinary medicine department at the University of Cambridge, told the outlet: “The authors discuss, very sensibly, how it is important that factory workers must be incentivized not to go to work when symptomatic or in contact with COVID-19 cases.”
The study was published on the bioRxiv website.