JAKARTA - Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries has concluded from its investigation of seafood company PT Putri Indah that it is ready to resume exports to China.
The Chinese government through its General Administration of Customs (CGAC) halted imports on September 18 from six companies, including one from Indonesia, Putri Indah, for a week after it said it found their product packaging tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Widodo Sumiyanto, the head of Indonesia’s quality control and fisheries quarantine agency (BKIPM) told Salaam Gateway a team was deployed to investigate Putri Indah’s factory in Belawan on September 19, the day after it was contacted by the CGAC.
The investigation team ensured that all production chains are clear of COVID-19, including verifying that all packaging have been cleaned using disinfectants and only employees with negative PCR swab tests enter the factory.
“The team reported to me that Putri Indah has imposed health protocols, including employees washing their hands, using hand gloves and masks each time before they enter the factory,” said Widodo.
“They are also encouraged not to talk too much during working hours and maintain the hygiene of raw materials, packaging and everything.”
He said he signed off the investigation results and sent them to the Chinese embassy in Indonesia on Friday (September 25). BKIPM hopes the Chinese authorities will allow Putri Indah to resume its exports this week.
Addressing the question as to how the virus was able to stick on the outer side of Putri Indah’s packaging and not on the seafood itself (frozen hairtail fish), Widodo said it could happen anywhere since the virus can spread through the air, via droplets, and contaminate many touch points that are very difficult to track during the export process.
This is not the first time Chinese authorities have banned imports of products following positive COVID-19 tests.
However, the World Health Organization has said that coronaviruses need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive and cannot multiply on the surface of food packages.
Widodo said that both the Indonesia and China governments have agreed to “not blame each other” and focus instead on improving alertness and tracking efforts.
“We have an agreement with the China government to maintain alertness and anticipate COVID-19 contamination. In fact, Putri Indah’s frozen hairtail fish sample that was found to contain COVID-19 is one of our joint efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Widodo.
“They (Chinese authorities) tested 500,000 samples (of food imports) and one of them was the sample from 24.5 tons of Putri Indah’s frozen hairtail fish. Apparently six samples were found to contain COVID-19.
“This means there are other companies from other countries, too, that are affected,” he added.
Widodo said Indonesia has health and safety measures to control all fishery products to be free of COVID-19 and are safe for human consumption. The government also educates the fishing industry at fish processing facilities about countermeasures and standards for COVID-19 through online seminars or webinars, he added.
(Reporting by Yosi Winosa; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])
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