Are you in the habit of freezing meat products like chicken, beef, pork and salmon? Beware, surrogates of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, has the potential to survive on the meat products both in the refrigerator or the freezer for up to 30 days, finds a study.
According to Emily S. Bailey from Campbell University, “although you might not store meat in the fridge for 30 days, you might store it in the freezer for that long”.
The team stored the chicken, beef, pork and salmon at both refrigeration (4 degrees Celsius) and freezer temperatures (-20 degrees Celsius).
“We even found that the viruses could be cultured after [being frozen for] that length of time.” Bailey, who is Assistant Professor, at the varsity’s Department of Public Health.
The findings, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, are important because SARS-CoV-2 can replicate within the gut, as well as in the respiratory tract, said Bailey.
The team undertook this research after learning that Covid-19 outbreaks were occurring in Southeast Asia absent prior community transmission. Reports from those communities “suggested that packaged meat products, produced in areas where SARS-CoV-2 was circulating, could have been the source of the virus,” said Bailey.
“Our goal was to investigate whether or not similar viruses could survive in this environment.”
In the study, the investigators used 1 RNA virus with a lipid envelope, and 2 animal coronaviruses, murine hepatitis virus, and transmissible gastroenteritis virus as surrogates.
All 3 viruses have previously been used as surrogates for SARS-CoV-2, generally with greater reductions in their numbers observed at refrigeration than at freezing temperatures. The reduction in numbers also varied according to the food item used.
“Continued efforts are needed to prevent contamination of foods and food processing surfaces, worker hands and food processing utensils such as knives,” the team said. Additionally, “the lack of, or inadequate disinfection of these foods prior to packaging needs to be addressed.”