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Commentary: Sino-EU Intergovernmental Collaboration in the Campaign Against the COVID-19 Pandemic on Food via EU-China-Safe Framework

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  • Christopher Elliott, PhD
    Professor of Food Safety, Director of the ASSET (Assured, Safe and Traceable) Technology Centre, Pro Vice Chancellor (2015–2018)
    Founder Director of Institute for Global Food Security
    Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K
  • [1] World Health Organizations. WHO coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard. https://covid19.who.int. [2021-1-2].
    [2] Lu RJ, Zhao X, Li J, Niu PH, Yang B, Wu HL, et al. Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding. Lancet 2020;395(10224):565 − 74. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30251-8.
    [3] Wang C, Horby PW, Hayden FG, Gao GF. A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern. Lancet 2020;395(10223):470 − 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30185-9.
    [4] Huang CL, Wang YM, Li XW, Ren LL, Zhao JP, Hu Y, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020;395(10223):497 − 506. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30183-5.
    [5] Li ZJ, Chen QL, Feng LZ, Rodewald L, Xia YY, Yu HL, et al. Active case finding with case management: the key to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet 2020;396(10243):63 − 70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(20)31278-2.
    [6] Tobías A, Molina T. Is temperature reducing the transmission of COVID-19? Environ Res 2020;186:109553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2020.109553.
    [7] Pang XH, Ren LL, Wu SS, Ma WT, Yang J, Di L, et al. Cold-chain food contamination as the possible origin of COVID-19 resurgence in Beijing. Natl Sci Rev 2020;7(12):1861 − 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwaa264.
    [8] Zhao X, Mao LL, Zhang JQ, Zhang Y, Song Y, Bo ZJ, et al. Reemergent cases of COVID-19 — Dalian city, Liaoning province, China, July 22, 2020. China CDC Wkly 2020;2(34):658 − 60. http://dx.doi.org/10.46234/ccdcw2020.182.
    [9] Yuan Q, Kou Z, Jiang F, Li Z, Zhang L, Liu H, et al. A nosocomial COVID-19 outbreak initiated by an infected dockworker at Qingdao City Port — Shandong Province, China, October. China CDC Wkly 2020;2(43):838 − 40. http://dx.doi.org/10.46234/ccdcw2020.224.
    [10] COVID-19 Field Response Group, Laboratory Testing Group, Zhang Y. The source of infection of the 137th confirmed case of COVID-19 — Tianjin Municipality, China, June 17, 2020. China CDC Wkly 2020;2(27):507 − 10. http://dx.doi.org/10.46234/ccdcw2020.122.
    [11] Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Live SARS-CoV-2 was successfully isolated and cultured from samples from imported frozen sea-food packaging by China CDC. http://www.chinacdc.cn/jkzt/crb/zl/szkb_11803/jszl_2275/202010/t20201017_222144.html. [2020-12-4].
    [12] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Guidance for normalizing prevention and control of COVID-19 outbreaks in key locations, key units, and key populations in low-risk areas in summer (revised edition): [2020]-192. http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-06/18/content_5520230.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [13] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Guidelines on prevention and control of COVID-19 for meat processing facilities: [2020]-216. http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-07/23/content_5529616.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [14] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Guidance on strengthening the detection of COVID-19 virus in the cold-food chain: [2020]-220. https://www.waizi.org.cn/doc/94423.html. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [15] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Technical guidance for COVID-19 prevention and control in farmers’ markets: [2020]-223. http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-08/12/content_5534325.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [16] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Technical guidance for prevention and control of COVID-19 in cold food production chain and Technical guidance for disinfection in cold food production chain to prevent and control of COVID-19: [2020]-245. http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-10/27/content_5555114.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [17] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Technical guidance of environmental monitoring of COVID-19 virus in farmers’ markets: [2020]-221. http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/zhengceku/2020-07/30/content_5531368.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [18] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Work plan for preventive and comprehensive disinfection of imported cold-chain food: [2020]-255. http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-11/09/content_5559179.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [19] The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Notice on further improving tracking management of cold-chain food: [2020]-263. http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-11/29/content_5565694.htm. [2021-1-2]. (In Chinese).
    [20] Bai L, Wang Y, Wang Y, Wu Y, Li N, Liu Z. Controlling COVID-19 transmission due to contaminated imported frozen food and food packaging. China CDC Wkly 2021;3(2):30 − 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.46234/ccdcw2021.008.

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Sino-EU Intergovernmental Collaboration in the Campaign Against the COVID-19 Pandemic on Food via EU-China-Safe Framework

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  • 1 Institute for Global Food Security, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
  • Corresponding author:

    Christopher Elliott, Chris.elliott@qub.ac.uk

    Online Date: January 08 2021
    Issue Date: January 08 2021
    doi: 10.46234/ccdcw2021.010
  • The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has swept across the planet with more than 81 million confirmed cases and deaths surpassing 1.8 million in over 222 countries (1). Since the first outbreak found in Wuhan in late December 2019, the capital city in Hubei Province of China, healthcare workers and scientists having been working relentlessly to fight against this invisible enemy. It is very clear that starting from nowhere, our Chinese colleagues have made tremendous contributions to the knowledge of the virus and have shared among their counterparts globally (2-4). There is little doubt that this knowledge has been of substantial support to the rest of world to initiate mitigation strategies and undertake vaccine development. The state government acted quickly by following scientific advice and put into place a coherent control plan. All the available evidence points to China having successfully contained and controlled domestic cases of the virus within a few months of the original outbreak.

    There was no early evidence from monitoring data based on whole genome sequencing and RNA testing (5) to show the transmission of COVID-19 virus could occur via food. However, there was a growing body of knowledge to suggest that the virus could have a longer survival time at lower temperatures (6). When the new regional outbreak occurred in Xinfadi and was linked to the wholesale market that serves Beijing, positive COVID-19 RNA results were found on food samples that the association between virus spread and food became apparent (7). Subsequently, transmission of the virus was also linked to Dalian (8), Qingdao (9) and Tianjin (10) harbor workers who, in all likelihood, became infected due to contact with frozen food and its packaging. The isolation of live virus in the Qingdao case study have further confirmed the transmissibility from food packaging to humans (11). In response to this mounting scientific evidence, the Chinese government issued a series of 8 updated notifications/guidelines (12-19) since June 2020 (More insights could be found on the newly released Policy Note) (20) to enhance the monitoring and regulations and cover the whole refrigerated food supply chain in China from entry into the country to entry into the markets.

    The highly important and ambitious EU-China Intergovernmental Horizon 2020 EU-China-Safe program was jointly founded by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (grant no 2017YFE0110800) and the European Commission (H2020 grant no727846). The purpose of this four-year (2017–2021) flagship research project is to establish an efficient, trusted, and robust network of scientists between the two regulatory systems. The project has aimed to deliver mutually recognized information sharing systems and knowledge transfer systems and harmonized testing methods in both food safety and authenticity spheres. The project has been running for three years and has been externally reviewed by both Chinese and European scientists, and the evaluations have been extremely positive. Since the beginning of this pandemic, members of the network in China and the EU have been actively involved in the efforts to control the virus. With an excellent degree of collaborations already in place, the ability to share knowledge and information has been achieved in a very fast and smooth manner. For example, protocols for sampling and analysis have been shared via the ‘virtual laboratory’ established at the outset of the project. All this information is being made available on the EU-China-Safe website (http://euchinasafe.eu) to help further disseminate the combined China and EU protocols. This project is exemplary of what can be achieved when the very best scientists from China and the EU have the means to work together and help develop high impact solutions to complex problems.

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Christopher Elliott, PhD
Professor of Food Safety, Director of the ASSET (Assured, Safe and Traceable) Technology Centre, Pro Vice Chancellor (2015–2018)
Founder Director of Institute for Global Food Security
Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K

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