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Your Odds of Getting COVID From Frozen Foods, According to Experts

Research has shown that the virus can survive in conditions as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
frozen fish

Asking an epidemiologist how the novel coronavirus first came to be in Wuhan, China is like asking a food historian which came first, the chicken or the egg? The question is very controversial and not everyone is going to provide the same answer.

However, in 2020, the idea that the virus emerged from frozen food came into play, but now experts are questioning the validity of that theory. (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now).

Why did scientists become suspicious of frozen foods in the first place?

In October of last year, a group of coronavirus cases popped up in Qingdao, China, which lead local authorities to hurriedly test the 11 million people residing in the seaport. Extensive tracing efforts found that two dock workers had been infected with COVID-19 in late September and while it still has yet to be confirmed just how these workers became infected in the first place, the Chinese Center for Disease Control immediately pointed to fish.

China CDC revealed it was able to detect genetic traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) on imported frozen cod packages at the docks. It didn't disclose where the imported fish has been shipped from, but it still led the agency to announce that this "proved" one could contract coronavirus from contaminated packaging. This discovery prompted WHO researchers to say in a press conference on Feb. 9 that more investigation is needed with regards to the origins of the virus.

At the conference, Peter Ben Embarek, a food safety expert and leader of the WHO team investigating the origins of COVID-19, said it would be interesting to explore whether or not contaminated, frozen wild animals could have introduced the virus (or viruses) into food markets. Still, he said a lot of work would need to be done in order to better understand these pathways.

As Nikolai Petrovsky, a vaccine developer and professor of endocrinology at Flinders University told CNET, "The genetics of the virus prove that there was only a single source in November of all human COVID."

If SARS-CoV-2 had been initially brought into Wuhan by way of frozen food, it would have had to been circulating in another part of the world, however, there have been no earlier outbreaks since those in Wuhan in December 2019.

So, what are my odds of contracting COVID-19 from frozen foods?

Simply put, the chances are very unlikely.

In fact, one report published in China's CDC Weekly Journal in early January found that after screening 1.4 million samples of imported goods since June 2020, only four cases of cold chain contamination had been identified in the country.

And while there have been a few instances where the packaging of frozen foods has been shown to carry the virus, whether you'd contract COVID-19 from touching or consuming it (after it's been thoroughly cooked) is still up for debate.

For more, be sure to check out 5 Grocery Store Items That Help You Combat COVID.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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