Don’t Fear Food During COVID-19, Know the FACTS
"Don’t forget to eat your fruits and vegetables to stay healthy... but first, wash them with soap?" (Spoiler: No, you do not need to wash your produce in soapy water. The only thing you should be washing with soap and water is your hands).
A recent video went viral of a general practitioner, as part a COVID-19 Food Safety PSA, instructing viewers to wash fruits and vegetables in soapy water before consuming. This video received 4.5 million views after 1 day. However, the second video of him retracting this advice, and mentioning that washing fruits and vegetables in soapy water is not necessary, has only received about 40,000 views in 1 day.
It is always important that we pay attention to food safety measures and hand hygiene, and even more so during this time. However, following advice from credible sources is necessary to staying well-informed and healthy during this time.
Please see below for common food safety questions and what government or scientific experts are advising:
“Can COVID-19 virus can be transmitted by food or from the food system?”
There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19. The biggest risk of COVID-19 transmission related to food and grocery shopping is close contact with others in the grocery store or touching handles and grocery cart surfaces used by many other people. COVID-19 virus is spread from person to person by airborne particles within 6 feet of each other. [Source]
“Do I need to wash my fruits and vegetables with soap and water?”
As mentioned above, it is NOT recommended to use soap when washing produce. Soaps, bleaches, disinfectants are not solutions that the human digestive system is meant to deal with. The soap and bleach chemicals getting into porous surfaces of produce could lead to gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.
Instead, wash your hands and then wash fruit and vegetables under cold running water. Use a vegetable brush on hard produce if you’d like. [Source]
“Should I avoid sharing food, utensils, and drinks with others?”
The COVID-19 virus is transmitted by airborne particles that can be transmitted by sharing food and drink utensils.Sharing food and beverages during meal time is discouraged. [Source]
“Should I take extra sanitary precautions when I bring my groceries home?”
Most of us aren’t used to a “sterile” approach when we bring groceries home. The best thing we can do is ensure that we wash our hands for 20 seconds before and after putting our groceries away.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, such as a food container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, be mindful that this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. [Source] A study from New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate that the virus can last up to 3 days on plastic or stainless steel surfaces and up to 1 day on cardboard surfaces. [Source]
When bringing food home from the grocery store or receiving your grocery delivery:
Wash hands before and after storing groceries [Source]
Some experts say that as an extra measure, although a low risk and no current evidence of the virus spreading this way, you can wipe packaged food products with a disinfectant wipe in addition to disposing of outer packaging when possible before storage.
“The basics of food safety don’t apply! It’s a pandemic! Right?!”
No. Continuing to prevent food borne illness is important for your own health during this time. Not to mention, the importance of staying out of hospital or clinics for foodborne illness symptoms. Ensure that you continue to follow the food safety basics:
Eat leftovers from fridge within 3 days. If you are not going to eat it but want to save the meal to eat later, put it in the freezer!
Reheat leftovers to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
Wash produce with cold running water, and a vegetable brush on hard produce
Always wash hands before preparing and eating food