China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is attempting to use radiation treatment – a method used to clean medical supplies since the 1960s – to kill Covid-19 in the cold food chain.
The research was first conducted in December last year when evidence suggested several Covid-19 cases in China were the result of imported frozen food.
CNNC’s subsidiary, China Isotope and Radiation Corporation, designed the radiation equipment used for the study and is reviewing the findings.
According to CNNC, the purpose of
the study is to develop a radiation disinfection method and “establish a
process to provide evidence for killing the coronavirus in the cold food
Despite China’s three-month study, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not believe there is enough data to prove that the Covid-19 virus is spread through food packaging.
However, a recent study cited by
digital health publication, Healthline, revealed that the Covid-19 virus can
survive for up to a day on cardboard and two days on cloth. The virus can
survive for longer on hard, flat surfaces and can survive between three and
seven days on plastic and glass.
The research team conducted irradiation experiments on two types of simulated coronavirus and found that even small amounts of radiation could destroy pathogens on the package surface, without harming the food within.
Radiation therapy has been used throughout the world to clean precision medical equipment for more than half a century. According to CNNC, 40% of medical tools in Europe and the US are cleaned by radiation, while in Chinese hospitals that number is closer to 10%.
China started using radiation to treat medical personal protective equipment (PPE) last year because it was less time consuming than using a solution of ethylene oxide, a traditional method of cleaning equipment that can take two weeks to complete.
Ultraviolet and chemical disinfection methods have been widely adopted across the globe but, according to the CNNC, chemical disinfectants like typical hand sanitizers left undesirable residue on surfaces and only worked on flat surfaces.
CNNC said the non-harmful radiation method offered a more comprehensive cleaning technique which disinfected the entire target item with no residual leftovers.