After the recent cluster outbreak of COVID-19 in Beijing, the public has been paying special attention to the safety of imported food. What measures have been taken by the customs authorities to prevent the virus being introduced into China via imported fresh produce?
Thank you for your question. The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its belief that, according to the existing investigation of coronavirus, there was no reported case of the virus being transmitted to humans by food consumption. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) both believed that the risk of transmission through the food trade was very low. Thus, they did not advise countries to impose COVID-19 related restrictions on international trade, including that involving food. As a member state of these international organizations, China upholds a scientific attitude and has adopted their suggestions. However, for caution's sake, while not wishing to affect the normal import trade, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) has arranged for novel coronavirus nucleic acid tests to be carried out through a sample inspection of certain imported goods, articles and the related environment ever since February, with negative results in regard to all the samples.
In regard to the recent cluster infections in Beijing, the customs authorities have taken note that society is highly concerned about the safety of imported fresh produce. With a prudent and highly responsible attitude toward the people, we have arranged for customs departments across the country to monitor cold chain fresh products imported from pandemic high-risk countries and regions, such as aquatic products, meat, frozen vegetables, aquatic animals, and time-sensitive or low-temperature transported industrial products. The GAC released the previous data on its website on June 18, and I will share the latest with you. On June 18, customs across the country conducted tests for COVID-19 on 15,638 samples, with 3,508 covering goods samples, 10,608 the interior or exterior packing material, and 1,522 environmental samples. All samples tested negative for the COVID-19.
Meanwhile, China's customs pay constant attention to the development of the global pandemic, and have fulfilled their function of ensuring the safety of imported goods. At the same time, we have strengthened communication with other countries. We sent messages to 42 key countries, requesting their competent government departments and food producers to strictly follow the food safety guidance for food businesses jointly issued by the FAO and the WHO, establish effective food safety management systems, take preventive measures to protect exported food from being contaminated with the novel coronavirus, so as to jointly ensure the safety of the food trade. For example, after the recent cluster infections of COVID-19 among the employees of the Tonnies Group, a leading name in Germany's meat industry, the country's competent government departments reported the outbreak to China's GAC in accordance with the relevant bilateral cooperation agreements, and suspended product exports to China on their own initiative. The GAC then detained goods from the company, which had arrived or were about to arrive at port as of June 17, and dealt with them in accordance with relevant regulations. Meanwhile, the administration suspended imports of products from this company.
The customs authorities will continue to make efforts on risk analysis and monitoring, strictly conduct inspection and quarantine, and fulfill their responsibility on safeguarding imported food safety. Thank you.