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Simple methods to wash vegetables at time of COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has everyone rethinking how they interact with highly trafficked surfaces at the grocery store. There are wipes for your cart and sanitizer for your hands but what happens in the fresh produce department that is vegetables and fruits? 

There are hands all over that produce (fruits-veggie) from the supply chain to grocery store employees to other customers. Our overall question is whether you should wash your fresh produce with soap and water? 

How long does the novel coronavirus last on porous surfaces like fruits and veggies? 

We don't know. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that it can last on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic and metal for up to three days and the CDC reported that coronavirus was detected after 17 days in an isolated cruise ship cabin but that Apple doesn’t know! So out of an abundance of caution let's consider our produce contaminated with coronavirus. The second question can you get infected with coronavirus by eating contaminated food.

Click on this video: Washing of the vegetables and fruits in soapy water.

According to the FDA, there have been no reported cases of anyone getting Covid-19 from food or food packaging to date. Covid-19 is a respiratory illness so it's different from the other foodborne illnesses caused by viruses like the norovirus. So it looks pretty unlikely that you could get Covid-19 from eating coronavirus laced food. Third question: What if you touch coronavirus contaminated produce and then you touch your eyes, nose, and your mouth that could you get Covid-19? This way there are many people who have touched your Apple before you bring it home and given that people can be asymptomatic for so long. It's certainly possible that your Apple is contaminated with coronavirus. Now let's take a step back, the latest CDC (Center for disease control) statements indicate that the primary mode of transmission is person to person through droplets and that's why social distancing is so important. The CDC states that it is possible that you could get infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face. So far there's no evidence of anyone getting Covid-19 from touching coronavirus contaminated produce but feasibly it's possible and that brings us back to our original question of whether you should wash your fresh produce with soap and water. A few things to set a baseline, pandemic or not you should always wash your produce before eating it. Many authorities like the FDA recommend washing produce by rinsing it under cold running water. No soap involves this even goes for products that you peel like bananas and oranges. For produce (fruits-veggie) that has tougher skins like potatoes, you can scrub with a brush for extra abrasion but this novel coronavirus is a tricky little bug because it has a rather oily outer membrane this means that the coronavirus could be resistant to water. 

Science of using soap:

Now the reason that soap and waterworks so well for our hands is that soap is both hydrophilic and hydrophobic meaning it's both water-loving and water-hating. The hydrophobic parts of the soap will disrupt the membrane of the virus and kill it. To essentially cause all of its viral deaths to spill out, mix this with the abrasion of scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds and you can effectively remove most of the microbes from your hands. If soap and waterworks for your hands then it should work for your produce too. I think that rationale is where the original recommendation came from to wash your produce in soap and water but not so fast. Typical household soaps like dish soap and hand soap are not meant to be consumed since fruits and vegetables are porous. Soap can seep in and not get rinsed off. If soap is consumed, it can cause symptoms like nausea stomach distress and poisoning. Though the concentrations of soapy residue left after rinsing are probably too low to cause poisoning but GI distress that's never a good time to summarize here's. What we know it is super important to eat fruits and veggies for health. 


Right now when you buy fruits and veggies at the grocery store it's possible that they are contaminated with coronavirus. You want to avoid transferring that coronavirus to your respiratory tract or to other surfaces in your home. We don't know how long coronavirus can last on produce and we don't know the best method to specifically get coronavirus off of produce. So what should you do? I've been leaving my house is to go grocery shopping every two weeks and when I'm at the grocery store I'm using the wipes. I'm using the hand sanitizer. I'm keeping six feet away from other people and I'm just trying to be as quick and efficient as possible. When I get home, I'm washing my hands and then wiping down all the hard surfaces of packaging with household cleaners before storage. Last time I went grocery shopping I did wash on my produce in soap and water. I had never done that before but I was scared but after digging into the data some more I'm going to be rinsing my produce and cold running water and then store in fresh containers. I will be vigilantly washing my hands with soap and water before food prep, during food prep, and before eating. So hope you seen the above video where I have shown the technique of washing fruits and vegetables with soap water.


1)    Wash with soap water for 15 minutes

2)    Then keep it in soapy water for a few minutes

3)    Then wash again with plain water

4)    Then keep it in normal water for a few minutes

5)    Then it is ready to use

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