“The effect of the Xinfadi outbreak will expand, enabling the entire food chain to feel the pain”

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China has stopped selling all salmon after coronavirus was found on a chopping board for the imported fish in the largest market in Beijing.

On Saturday, SalmonBusiness wrote that Chinese authorities locked down areas surrounding Beijing’s largest wholesale food market after more than 50 people tested positive for COVID-19

The new cluster in cases in Beijing had been traced back to a meat market in Xinfadi, where coronavirus was found on an imported salmon chopping board. The salmon was sourced from the seafood market in Jingshen. Supermarkets afterwards removed all salmon from the shelves.

Salmon cannot be the carrier of the virus
Now salmon sales have been halted throughout China, and the search is underway to find where the virus came from.

According to Deputy Director of Pathogen Biology Department at Wuhan University, Yang Zhanqiu, it is too early to draw the conclusion that seafood markets have become “hot spots” for the coronavirus.

To the nationwide English-language daily newspaper Global Times, Yang Zhanqiu says there is no possibility that seafood, including salmon, could be the carrier of the coronavirus. “This is because seafood is usually sent chilled to China. But seafood can be contaminated in other ways in the external environment, such as through the process of transport or packaging,” Yang Zhanqiu explained.

“The virus has rarely been transmitted to humans from fish,” he emphasised. Though he added that “consumers still have difficulty accepting that salmon is safe to eat.”

Entire food chain can feel pain
Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), told the same newspaper that the salmon industry around the world will be affected by the outbreak while trying to clarify where the virus is coming from.

According to the Global Times, 85 percent of the salmon in China is imported. This corresponds to at least 100,000 tonnes of salmon annually. 70 percent of this salmon comes from Chile, Norway and the Faroe Islands.

“The effect of the Xinfadi outbreak will extend from wholesale markets to supermarkets and restaurants, so the entire food chain can feel pain,” said Cui He.

Cui Hi says it is too early to say how much the seafood industry will be affected by the outbreak, but he believes it will be short-lived.

“Compared to the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak months ago, this trend is nothing for the industry. Prevention and control measures are more restrained, and the authorities and industry have been quicker to respond,” he says, but at the same time he added.

“Although none of the salmon in the seafood markets has been found to carry the virus so far, consumers still have trouble accepting that salmon is safe to eat”.

Tested 10,000 people
On Monday morning, NRK correspondent in Asia, Kjersti Strømmen, reported that people in Bejing are very scared to buy salmon, even if they are not getting it now. She said she had talked to people who had eaten salmon recently and was nauseated by the thought that they may have caught the virus through salmon.

NRK reported that already 10,000 people have been tested after the outbreak, and that Chinese health authorities reported 49 new cases of infection on Sunday.

Over 83,000 people in China have been registered infected since the outbreak in December last year. 4,634 people have died from the virus in the country, according to Worldometer.