“Not Our Beef”, Adern Responds to China COVID Claims

Over the weekend, it was reported by Reuters that the Chinese city of Jinan had found coronavirus on beef and tripe and their packaging from Brazil, Bolivia and New Zealand, while two other provincial capitals detected it on packaging on pork from Argentina.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ that she is looking into the report after being advised that it did not involve New Zealand meat.

“We've been advised that’s Argentinean beef, so just trying to get to the bottom of what’s been reported there as we speak, but rest assured we’ll keep doing that,” Ardern told TVNZ. “To this point, I’ve been advised it’s not our beef, but we’ll keep working away on that.”

According to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand has not been officially informed about any coronavirus detection by Chinese authorities.

New Zealand exported $3.173 billion of meat and edible meat offal to China in the year ended September, accounting for 38 per cent of total meat exports and making it the country’s largest meat export market, according to Stats NZ.

“We are aware of the reports from China about the outer packaging of some imported frozen beef being found to have traces of genetic material from Covid-19 and are awaiting further information from Chinese authorities,” commented Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the New Zealand Meat Industry Association.

“The risk of COVID-19 transmission by food or food packaging is negligible. Advice from the World Health Organisation is that transmission by airborne droplets and aerosols is the dominant pathway for COVID-19 infection.”

China has been ramping up testing on frozen foods after repeatedly detecting the virus on imported products, according to the report from Reuters, triggering disrupting import bans, even as the World Health Organisation says the risk of catching COVID-19 from frozen food is low.

In Jinan, capital of eastern China’s Shandong province, the goods involved were imported by a unit of Guotai International Group and Shanghai Zhongli Development Trade, the city’s municipal health commission said on Saturday, the report said.

They entered through ports in Shanghai, it said, without naming the companies that shipped the products to China. More than 7500 people who may have been exposed tested negative for coronavirus, according to the report.

“The red meat processing sector is committed to protecting our people and doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Karapeeva, adding that the meat industry in New Zealand is closely watching and reviewing international developments about transmission and taking advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries and experts at the New Zealand Food Safety Science Research Centre about how it responds to these emerging risks as knowledge about the virus grows.