Ice cream has been found to have been contaminated with COVID-19 in China after three samples tested positive for the virus.
Anti-epidemic authorities in north China‘s Tianjin Municipality are tracing people who may have been in contact with the batches, which were produced by Tianjin Daqiaodao Food Company.
All of the products produced by the firm have been sealed and contained after the samples it sent to the municipal centre for disease control this week tested positive for coronavirus.
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Initial epidemiological investigations indicate the company produced the batch of ice cream using raw materials, including milk powder imported from New Zealand and whey powder imported from Ukraine.
Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist based at the University of Leeds, told Sky News the development was unlikely to be a cause for “panic”.
“It’s likely this has come from a person, and without knowing the details, I think this is probably a one-off,” he said.
“Of course, any level of contamination is not acceptable and always a cause for concern, but the chances are that this is the result of an issue with the production plant and potentially down to hygiene at the factory.”
He explained that the cold temperature that ice cream was stored at, and the fact it contains fat, could explain why the virus had survived on the samples taken – but suggested the news should not prompt major alarm.
“We probably don’t need to panic that every bit of ice cream is suddenly going to be contaminated with coronavirus,” he said.
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The company’s 1,662 employees have been placed under quarantine and underwent nucleic acid testing on Thursday following guidance from the Tianjin Center for Disease Control.
Authorities said the company produced 4,836 boxes of COVID-contaminated ice cream, 2,089 of which had been sealed away in storage.
A total of 935 boxes of the ice cream, out of 2,747 boxes that entered the market, were in Tianjin and only 65 were sold to markets.
Authorities said residents who may have bought the product should report their health and physical movements to those in their communities.
The city has also informed the market regulation authorities in other provinces where the ice cream was sent so it can be traced.