Frozen meat

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WASHINGTON — Your own refrigerator could be the reason you catch COVID-19 a month from now, a new study warns. Researchers have found that the virus can survive within various meat products people keep in their refrigerators or freezers for more than 30 days.

In their study, researchers examined chicken, beef, pork, and salmon products, storing them in refrigerators at 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit and in freezers at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. They exposed the meat to surrogate viruses — which have similar spike proteins to the SARS-CoV-2 virus but are less harmful to people.

“Although you might not store meat in the fridge for 30 days, you might store it in the freezer for that long,” says study first author Emily Bailey from Campbell University in a media release. “We even found that the viruses could be cultured after [being frozen for] that length of time.”

The team notes they began their investigation after hearing reports of COVID outbreaks in areas of Southeast Asia that had no previous records of community transmission. Bailey says COVID tracing in those communities “suggested that packaged meat products, produced in areas where SARS-CoV-2 was circulating, could have been the source of the virus.”

“Our goal was to investigate whether or not similar viruses could survive in this environment,” Bailey adds.

COVID can move from your freezer to your gut

Study authors say SARS-CoV-2 is capable of replicating within a person’s gut, as well as their respiratory tract. This makes the study of food-based viral transmission even more important during the pandemic. Previous studies have suggested that COVID-19 actually impacts a patient’s gut before respiratory symptoms begin.

Other reports have also linked worsening COVID-19 severity to a patient’s poor gut health.

During the new study, researchers substituted COVID-19 with three different surrogates — one RNA virus with a lipid envelop and two animal coronaviruses (murine hepatitis virus and transmissible gastroenteritis virus).

All three are common substitutes for SARS-CoV-2 in scientific experiments. However, researchers say these viruses see greater reductions in their numbers at low temperatures in both the refrigerator and the freezer. This could mean COVID is even more resilient to the cold. Study authors also note that viral loads surviving in the frozen meat vary depending on the food.

“Continued efforts are needed to prevent contamination of foods and food processing surfaces, worker hands and food processing utensils such as knives,” the investigators write in a statement. Additionally, “the lack of, or inadequate disinfection of these foods prior to packaging needs to be addressed.”

The findings are published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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8 Comments

  1. Darian says:

    What a bunch of crap! Of course virus can live on or in any frozen or refrigerated item. If you are worried about it, wipe down the packaging with an appropriate wipe that will destroy the virus, then put it away and don’t worry about it. If the supposed issue is that the virus is in the meat itself, how about just engaging in proper food handling procedures. Like wear food handling gloves, don’t cross contaminate surfaces, and cook the meat thoroughly. The cooking will destroy the virus. Of course, if you you plan on buying a package of bacon, thoroughly licking the plastic packaging, then eating the bacon raw, I guess you probably need to worry about more that covid.

  2. NoThankYou says:

    Is this to keep us from eating the stored meat in our freezer due to the rising costs? If so, I’m not buying it for one minute. How can properly handled food that’s packaged and cooked throughly be carrying a virus that supposedly cannot survive on surfaces for that long?

    1. Frank says:

      My first take from this article is not that there is a conspiracy by the beef industry to toss meat, but rather a conspiracy by animal rights/vegans to cause mistrust in beef in general.

  3. Bob says:

    Too funny. This could have all been over if COVID had just been allowed to take its course right away instead of being slow-rolled.

  4. roddy6667 says:

    Cook. Your. Food.

  5. Vox Veritatis says:

    Democrats: You must socially distance from your food.

  6. Logicalmind says:

    Such BS! Viruses are dead matter, they don’t live! This is pure germ THEORY hogwash that defies logic, common sense and real science. This article is for the lame and retarded to believe, including indoctrinated allopathic medical followers!

    1. Sara says:

      “The COVID19 virus could be hiding in the meat in your freezer for weeks”
      Interesting title. The article did not prove said virus can be in ???? meat or ???? or ????. Honestly, my first thought was Oh no! I should throw the food out in the freezer today! My second thought was is this true? My third thought was, who wants Americans to become vegans and eat insects?