Chinese health authorities have found traces of coronavirus in imported frozen chicken wings and on food packaging, local officials said Thursday.

The Shenzhen Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters said the public needed to take precautions around frozen food following the findings.

The warning came after a sample taken from frozen chicken wings that had arrived in the city from Brazil were reportedly found to have been contaminated by coronavirus.

Meanwhile samples from packaging of frozen shrimp from Ecuador sold in Xian also tested positive for the virus, local authorities there said.


The findings have led China to step up screening at ports and contact tracing, but all cases were negative so far, authorities claimed.

The move will spark fears the virus could spread on frozen food products after speculation this may have been possible due to the fact the virus can survive in cold temperatures.

The Brazilian embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"It is hard to say at which stage the frozen chicken got infected," said a China-based official at a Brazilian meat exporter.

The role of frozen food and cold temperatures in potentially transmitting the virus has been in the spotlight this week as New Zealand probes the source of a mystery outbreak that began with a worker in a cold store facility.

However, on Thursday Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters suggested the cluster may in fact be linked to a quarantine breach following reports he received from a journalist rather than any public health official.

The first cluster of Covid-19 cases in China was linked to a seafood market in Wuhan. Initial studies suggested the virus may have originated in a wild animal such as a pangolin that was sold there.