(AFP / Peter Parks)

Novel coronavirus: Australian authorities refute hoax about 'contaminated' foods and locations

Copyright AFP 2017-2020. All rights reserved.

Multiple Facebook posts shared hundreds of times purport to show a list of foods and locations in Sydney, Australia which have been contaminated by a new strain of coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The claim is false; the local Australian health authority told AFP the locations listed pose no risk to visitors, and the foods named do not appear in the New South Wales food authority’s list of recalls and advisories.

The list was published in this Facebook post on January 27, 2020.

Below is a screenshot of the misleading post:

The post reads: “As the disease is starting to spread in the greater Sydney region. I would like to warn wholesale shops and buyers on the risk of buying contiminated [sic] products.
These following items are known to or may have traces of corona’s disease. (Products are made or held in neighbouring areas close to Wuhan China.
-wuxhang rice
-xiaozhan rice
-fortune cookies
-nongsshim onion rings
- Mi Goreng noodles
-peach ice tea (Lipton)
-yakult milk drink
-Chinese red bull (traces may also be held in normal red bull)
-wagyu beef

"The following items showed above may contain traces off  [sic] the corona’s virus and we are urging the public too  [sic] be extra vigilant before purchasing these products. The bureau of diseasology parramatta has run some test on the air in areas which people with corona’s disease have visited and contaminated: Rhodes, Burwood, Strathfield, Chester Hill.

"The areas shown above have shown positive readings to the virus when test where taken at respective train stations.

"Scientists are believing this virus is spreading faster then the common flu dear public please be cautious while entering these areas and wear masks / gloves when at work and out in public. Stay safe”.

The new strain of coronavirus, believed to have originated from a wildlife market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed more than 106 people in China since its emergence in late 2019, as reported here by AFP on January 28, 2020.

Despite China putting Wuhan and its neighbouring cities on lockdown in a bid to contain the rapidly spreading virus, doctors have identified cases in at least a dozen other countries, as reported here by AFP.

Australia confirmed its first case of the virus on January 25, 2020 -- a man who arrived in Melbourne from China a week ago -- as reported here by AFP.

This Reuters report, dated January 27, 2020, says five cases of the disease have been confirmed in the country so far, with four of them in the New South Wales area. 

The misleading post refers to "Rhodes, Burwood, Strathfield and Chester Hill", which are all suburbs of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. 

Similar claims have been shared on Facebook here, here, here, and here.

These posts claimed that three additional suburbs in Sydney -- Cabramatta, Newtown and Guildford -- had confirmed new cases of coronavirus.

The claim in the posts is false; the New South Wales health authority told AFP that visiting the locations listed in the misleading posts poses “no risk” to individuals and the foods named in the posts do not appear in the New South Wales food authority’s list of recalls and advisories. 

“NSW Health has been made aware of a social media post that is being widely circulated warning people to not consume certain foods or visit certain locations in Sydney,” a spokesperson from NSW Health told AFP via email on January 28, 2020. 

“This post has not originated from NSW health or any entity relating to us.  Further, there is no such entity as the ‘Department of Diseasology Parramatta’. NSW Health would like to assure the community that the locations mentioned in this post pose no risk to visitors, and there have been no ‘positive readings’ at train stations.”

AFP also conducted a search on the New South Wales Food Authority’s "Recalls and advisories", and found no mention of the foods listed as being affected by the coronavirus in the misleading posts.