There is a real risk of cross-border coronavirus transmission through the $1.5 trillion global agri-food market, according to a scientist who has studied the phenomenon.
It is possible that contaminated food imports can transfer the virus to workers as well as the environment, said Dale Fisher, an infectious diseases physician at Singapore’s National University Hospital. Frozen-food markets are thought to be one harbor in the first part of a chain of transmission, he added.
“It’s hitching a ride on the food, infecting the first person that opens the box,” Fisher, who also chairs the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, said in an interview. “It’s not to be confused with supermarket shelves getting infected. It’s really at the marketplace, before there’s been a lot of dilution.”
In recent months China has been vocal about finding traces of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen on packaging and food, raising fears that imported items are linked to recent virus resurgences. Beijing has ordered a range of precautionary steps, creating major disruptions with its trading partners.