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Detection of Covid on Cherry Packaging in China: Chilean Industry Statement

January 23, 2021

The Chilean Cherry Committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) this morning released the following statement in response to media reports in China of detection of Covid-19 genetic material on the packaging of imported cherries at a market in the city of Wuxi. This content has been published as provided by its author. It has not been modified by Produce Report except for necessary website formatting.

STATEMENT

In relation to the recent news published on media outlets in China, in reference to the supposed detection of Covid on imported cherries, we would like to assure our valued trade colleagues and friends of the following:

Our industry is actively collaborating with our trade colleagues in China and with both Chinese and Chilean public authorities, in order to ensure that this season, consumers can celebrate the Chinese New Year with friends and loved ones and enjoy their red moment, with Cherries from Chile. We urge all our friends and colleagues to stay vigilant, follow official information, comply with food safety regulations and trust as well as confide in the quality, safety and reliability of the Chilean cherry industry. We will keep all of our friends and partners updated should we receive more official information about the current situation.

  1. To date, we have confirmed with the Chilean Embassy in China, that there is no official communication from Chinese Government authorities in regards to any detection of Covid on Chilean cherries.
  2. There exists a clear and publically known protocol on the part of Chinese Customs officials for handling these types of eventual situations. Most importantly, they should be informed to the Chilean Embassy officials in China, after no more than a few hours following the incident. Until today, this has not taken place, ever though the supposed detection occurred some 3 days ago. Hence, we could assume that the cherries are not from Chile.
  3. The Chilean cherry industry strictly follows all production and export guidelines mandated by the Chinese Government, as well as those outlined by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  4. From the global pandemic outbreak, the Chilean cherry industry was quick to establish specific preventive guidelines and checklists for all growers and exporters. We continuously reinforce these measures by closely adhering to Chinese authorities’ regulations with the objective of assuring the Chinese consumers a delicious, healthy and safe cherry.
  5. This season, China has imported more than 130 million kilos of fresh cherries, that have been consumed by more than 400 million end consumers. Our fresh cherry exports have complied with public inspection protocols and market regulations at all points of entry into China, as well as strict private channel partners’ guidelines, in multiple occasions, throughout the supply chain.
  6. To date, there has never been any reported transmission of COVID through food, nor is there any scientific evidence of transmission via food or food packaging. According to Dr. Wu Zunyou, Chief Epidemiologist of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), during an announcement in a State Council Prevention and Control Mechanism press conference: “A positive nucleic acid test does not necessarily mean it is infectious. Infection caused by contamination must be by a relatively large amount and requires long-term repeated contact. The risk of infection caused by consuming imported food from the cold chain is very low. ” Dr. Wenhong Zhang, the head of the Center of Infectious Diseases, Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, also said at a CCTV Interview, “ I can say that there are no cases of infection caused by our people eating cold chain food”.
  7. In the unlikely situation of a detection of Covid on a box of cherries, the consumer can be assured of the safety and cleanliness of the final product delivered to China, given that in Chile, our cherries undergo a thorough process of washing and rinsing before being safely protected inside airtight sealed bags in order to reach the final consumer in optimum conditions.

Our industry is actively collaborating with our trade colleagues in China and with both Chinese and Chilean public authorities, in order to ensure that this season, consumers can celebrate the Chinese New Year with friends and loved ones and enjoy their red moment, with Cherries from Chile.

We urge all our friends and colleagues to stay vigilant, follow official information, comply with food safety regulations and trust as well as confide in the quality, safety and reliability of the Chilean cherry industry.

We will keep all of our friends and partners updated should we receive more official information about the current situation.

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