The World Health Organization is caught in an escalating dispute over whether the coronavirus is spreading on frozen-food packaging, as China steps up efforts to promote the theory and the U.S., European Union and others lobby against extra checks on their goods.
The WHO has been formulating new advice for the public on the issue. A draft sent to The Wall Street Journal warns that the virus could spread via the cold chain and be reintroduced into countries where the pandemic is under control.
WHO officials say the draft wasn’t cleared for publication and was sent in error. They added it was designed to reflect recent evidence, including scientific papers, media reports and presentations by China to the organization, but said the wording hadn’t been finalized.
Beijing has blamed frozen-food imports as one cause of a string of recent outbreaks, and it has introduced mandatory testing and disinfection of foreign goods, saying it found traces of the virus on packaging of products including American pork, Saudi shrimp and Brazilian beef.
The U.S., EU and several other governments are meanwhile disputing Beijing’s assessment of the evidence, as are many experts outside China.