In this Nov. 18, 2020, file photo, lobsters sit in a crate at a shipping facility in Arundel. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Chinese media outlets have suggested that a 2019 shipment of Maine lobster was a “Pandora’s box” that unleashed the global COVID-19 pandemic.

That claim comes after cooperation broke down over the summer between Chinese officials and World Health Organization investigators, who said the window for discovering the origins of the virus is “closing fast.”

Earlier this year, WHO scientists concluded that the virus likely jumped from an animal to a human and ruled the possibility of a laboratory leak as “extremely unlikely.”

The Chinese government has attempted to deflect criticism over its response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19, suggesting the virus originated outside the country. Other sources have been purported to be Norwegian salmon, Australian seafood and now Maine lobster.

This latest claim suggests boxes of frozen Maine lobster shipped into the country in November 2019 ended up at the Wuhan market where the first COVID-19 case was reported in December 2019, according to Seafood Source, an industry news outlet.

An article on the news portal Sina described the batch of lobster as a “Pandora’s box.”

The article suggests a connection between the Maine lobster and the rash of severe respiratory illnesses from vaping reported in Maine and across the nation in mid-2019. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later linked the illnesses to vitamin E acetate used as a thickening agent in illicit THC vaping liquids.

Robert Long, a spokesperson for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Seafood Source that there’s “no scientific evidence” to support the claims that COVID-19 originated with Maine lobster.

The WHO, United Nations and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have previously said there has been no connection between seafood and COVID-19 outbreaks, according to Seafood Source.