People have been worried about whether or not coronavirus can live on frozen meat and now a new study proves that it can survive for up to three weeks on pork, poultry, and fish in the freezer.

This research comes from reputable scientists after Chinese officials connected recent surges in coronavirus cases to imported meat sold at a market in Beijing. In the study, to find out whether the virus could survive under extreme temperatures, scientists–including two researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore–injected the virus into salmon, chicken and pork, which was then kept at the same temperatures (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit for standard refrigeration and minus 4 degrees for standard freezing) as if it was being transported between countries.

After 21 days, the researchers analyzed the samples and found that the virus was still live in all of the types of meats they tested: the salmon, chicken, and pork. “Importation of contaminated food and food packaging is a feasible source for [coronavirus] outbreaks and a source of clusters within existing outbreaks,” the research found.

Unexplained surges in coronavirus are occurring in Vietnam, New Zealand, and parts of China. This research can provide answers as to why outbreaks are occurring in countries with little to no cases reported locally.

In the U.S, doctors and health professionals from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), sued the USDA to test meat and see if it is contaminated with coronavirus (the same way our food is routinely tested for other pathogens). Meat plants have been the center of outbreaks in America, and to date, 34,000 meat workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in 384 plants across 39 states. So far,163 deaths have been confirmed although the number may be higher. The USDA has rejected the move to require companies to test meat or warn the public about the chances of contracting the virus.

Another law, which was backed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Corey Booker would strengthen the Farm System Reform Act of 1921 that would require food manufacturers and packagers to tell consumers where their meat and produce comes from.

"We believe it is possible that contaminated imported food can transfer the virus to workers as well as the environment. 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,"

As we continue to find ways to stay healthy and avoid coronavirus one might be simple enough to avoid meat and dairy. Cutting out meat has been linked to lowering inflammation and boost immunity.

But what about when the meat and poultry get cooked?

The study hasn't been peer-reviewed yet. So there are as many questions as answers, such as: does cooking the meat at high temperatures kill the virus? And if you handle the meat or it comes into contact with your countertop or plates during cooking and prepping can the virus then spread that way?

Researchers are advising to take extra precautions when handling the meat and make sure to thoroughly clean the surfaces as well as utensils, and wash hands after touching uncooked meat or poultry or fish. "In receiving markets at the other end of the supply chain, food cannot be decontaminated, however, added precautions to ensure good hand hygiene and regular cleaning of surfaces and utensils is important. Consumers should wash their hands after touching uncooked products and ensure that food is well cooked," according to the study.

The authors state that they have "no competing interest" so while this is a good first step in finding out whether coronavirus can spread through food, more research needs to be done.

The fear that meat might be contaminated has led consumers to ditch meat

The combination of meat plant workers falling ill with more people craving plant-based options has led to meat sales and production declining for the first time in six years.  It’s no surprise people are grabbing the plant-based meat over the real thing, since cutting out meat has been linked to lowering inflammation and boosting immunity, two things that can help reduce symptoms of COVID-19. Avoiding meat may be the safest way to sidestep coming into contact with coronavirus and stay healthy.


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