As the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of Hong Kong announced on April 6 that one outer packaging sample of a batch of frozen ox offal imported from Brazil tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM) immediately launched the contingency plan upon receiving the information. Measures such as source tracing, investigation, re-tests, etc. of the products of the involved enterprise have been adopted. Local businesses have been requested to immediately seal the products sourced from the involved enterprise, and samples have been collected for re-tests. No abnormalities have been found. Meanwhile, IAM has immediately suspended the application for import of the products of the involved enterprise.
Since July 2020, IAM has collected samples for nucleic acid tests on beef products imported from Brazil and their outer and inner packaging for multiple times, and so far, coronavirus has not been found. In the past three months, IAM has also carried out disinfection and sample testing of the products imported from the mentioned country in compliance with pandemic prevention measures, and only products which have passed the inspections can enter Macao.
IAM has continuously adopted prevention and regulation measures on imported cold-chain food products, and has formulated contingency plans corresponding to the risks. When IAM is notified that a product from a registered venue in a certain country or region has tested positive for novel coronavirus, a series of arrangements will be made to suspend the application for import and inspection on the level of import into Macao. When the suspension period expires, IAM will also carry out nucleic acid tests on the outer packaging, inner packaging and food products of the registered venue, so as to strictly prevent the transmission of novel coronavirus through cold-chain food products and their outer packaging. On the level of market sales and circulation, IAM will evaluate the stock of the products imported from the registered venue into Macao in the past through the “cold-chain food products tracing system”, notify businesses to immediately seal the products and send staff to collect random samples for nucleic acid tests again to further eliminate the risk.
According to the information of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the research of international food safety risk assessment organisations, there is currently no evidence that shows the novel coronavirus pneumonia can be directly transmitted through food. Therefore, the public should always pay attention to their personal, food and environmental hygiene and remember the following:
l Purchase cold-chain food products from licensed and reputable businesses. Consumers must know clearly the source, storage and transportation conditions of the purchased cold-chain food products and that the products satisfy the laws and regulations regarding the import of live and fresh food products to Macao, especially when making purchases on the Internet or through shopping agents;
l When making purchases, consumers must pay attention to their personal health and protection. They should wash their hands frequently, wear their face masks properly and keep social distance. When they choose the food products, they should avoid using their hands to directly touch the products and use tongs or other tools instead. After they have chosen the products, they should use alcoholic hand rub to clean their hands thoroughly;
l After consumers have brought the food products home, they can separate the products and place them in lidded containers or food storage plastic bags, and then place them in the refrigerator. If the food products come with outer packaging, consumers can also use cotton containing 75% alcohol to clean the surface of the packaging and store them separately in the refrigerator;
l When handling food, consumers should handle raw food and cooked food separately, and use two different sets of knives, cutting boards and containers. After handling food, they should thoroughly clean the wash basins, kitchen equipment and countertops. Refrigerators should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly;
l Food must be thoroughly cooked before consumption. Meanwhile, make sure both hands are clean before touching or consuming food.