If infecting more than 93 million people across the globe wasn’t enough, COVID-19 has now been found in ice cream.
Three ice cream samples — chocolate, strawberry and taro — tested positive for traces of the coronavirus after they were submitted for a food inspection in northeastern China’s Tianjin municipality, according to a report from local Chinese media on Friday.
The samples were produced by the Tianjin Daqiaodao Food Company, which makes cakes, ice cream and other frozen products. The company locked down after the discovery: All goods that had been distributed from the company’s warehouse were tracked and all 1,662 employees went into quarantine. As of Friday, 700 of Tianjin Daqiaodao Food Company’s employees had tested negative for COVID-19, and the remaining test results have yet to be revealed.
The infected samples, made from milk and whey powder imported from New Zealand and Ukraine, came from a batch of 4,836 boxes. More than 2,700 of these had already entered China’s food market, while the rest remained in storage. Health officials have called for locals to avoid purchasing the ice cream.
It is unclear how COVID-19 could have found its way into a batch of frozen dairy products, but University of Leeds virologist Dr. Stephen Griffin told Sky News that the baffling turn of events was likely a “one-off,” and the virus may have still been present within the ice cream’s fat due to its cold storage temperature.
A 2010 study of the SARS coronavirus — which is related to COVID-19 — showed that the “infectious virus persisted for as long as 28 days” at about 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and also survived for long periods in lower temperatures.
“Of course, any level of contamination is not acceptable and always a cause for concern, but the chances are that this is the result of an issue with the production plant and potentially down to hygiene at the factory,” Griffin said. “We probably don’t need to panic that every bit of ice cream is suddenly going to be contaminated with coronavirus.”