'No further action' to be taken after New Zealand meat tests positive for COVID-19 in China

Chinese officials have confirmed that "no further action" will be taken after New Zealand meat packaging tested positive for traces of COVID-19.

Last week officials scrambled to verify reports by Reuters that meat from New Zealand was found with traces of the virus on it.

According to the report, coronavirus had been found by officials in the city of Jinan on beef and tripe from New Zealand and a number of South American countries.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor later confirmed he had been told by Chinese officials that a sample taken from packaging on a shipment of New Zealand tripe had tested positive for COVID-19 genetic material.

However, he said the product in question was stored in a cold storage facility along with meat from other countries and there was "no evidence that the New Zealand product was the source of COVID-19 on the packaging of products in the cold store facility".

"We have strong national COVID-19 controls in place and a great track record of managing the disease. New Zealand food and fibre exporters have responded well to managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, keeping their workers and product safe, and their exports flowing," he said.

On Wednesday a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) confirmed to Newshub that New Zealand officials met with Chinese customs officials after the virus was found.

"As part of the ongoing dialogue between them, both New Zealand and China reaffirmed their commitments to working together constructively and cooperatively, and agreed that no further action was required from New Zealand on this matter."

The Meat Industry Association (MIA) has also stressed there is no evidence New Zealand meat was the source of the virus, adding that there is "no visibility of how the product is handled and distributed once it clears a port in China".

Last week MIA's chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the association followed strict safety protocols, giving it a "robust first line of defence against the transmission of the virus".

Karapeeva added that the "risk of COVID-19 transmission by food or food packaging is also negligible".