Coronavirus: Chinese scientists try using radiation to kill coronavirus on food packaging

Sidney Leng, South China Morning Post

Posted at Mar 14 2021 08:18 AM

Chinese scientists have begun laboratory tests to see if radiation can be used to kill the coronavirus in the cold food chain, according to an official announcement released on Saturday.

The research is being led by state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) with help from its ]]>

"The main goal of this project is to carry out research on coronavirus irradiation disinfection and establish a process to provide evidence for killing the coronavirus in the imported cold food chain," CNNC said.

"The results will be of great significance for disinfecting imported cold food and preventing virus infections during big international sports events."

Preparations for the tests began in December after a number of coronavirus cases were linked to the packaging of imported frozen food, CNNC said.

Over the past three months, the researchers had conducted irradiation experiments on two types of simulated coronavirus, and the results showed that a small amount of radiation could kill the pathogens without affecting food safety, it said.

Despite the research, according to the US Food and Drug Administration there is still insufficient evidence to prove food and food packaging is a source of coronavirus transmission.

The agency said last month that the reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging mostly focused on its genetic fingerprint rather than evidence it had been transmitted to people.

The CNNC said radiation technology had been widely used in disinfecting and sterilising medical supplies. More than 40 per cent of medical supplies are disinfected by irradiation in Europe and the US, but in China the figure was only about 10 per cent, it said.

China started using radiation technology to disinfect disposable medical protective clothing last year as it was less time consuming than the traditional process of using ethylene oxide, which takes up to two weeks.

During the pandemic, the main technologies that had been used for preventing the coronavirus from contaminating food were chemical and ultraviolet disinfection, though the former could leave chemical residues on food and the latter worked only on food packaging with a flat surface, the CNNC said.

By comparison, irradiation could disinfect the interior and exterior part of food, it said.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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