Coronavirus Question: Is Produce Safe During the Pandemic?

As a holistic nutritionist, I’ve been fielding questions from clients and friends about the pandemic. I will be sharing my answers here on my blog. Here’s the first one.

Question:   I’ve become afraid to buy fresh produce in fear it could have the virus on it.  I don’t know how to wash it to make it safe.  Do you have any info to help in that regard?

Answer: The most important thing to remember is that eating fresh produce is going to help boost your immune system more than anything else you can do. The vitamins, minerals, and bioflavonoids in fruits and vegetables are complex and can’t be completely replicated in supplement form because scientists are still discovering the intricate interactions.

So buying and eating fresh produce is essential now more than ever.  The benefits of eating it far out-weight the risks.

How does the virus spread?

The CDC has no documented cases of the coronavirus spreading through contact with surfaces (like food). So far, the documented cases have been spread through respiratory droplets. This is why the social distancing (staying 6 feet away from people) is so important. However, they are still recommending that we disinfect surfaces.

According to WebMD, Coronavirus doesn’t seem to spread through exposure to food. Anytime you cook a food you will we killing the virus completely. And as long as you are not touching your face and properly washing your hands for 20 seconds after handling food, you should be safe.

But the packaging that food comes in can be contaminated and without disinfection can survive for several days on these materials:

  • Plastic – 3 days
  • Cardboard – 24 hours
  • Glass – 5 days
  • Paper – up to 5 days

So to ease your worry, it’s a great idea to wipe down all packaging with a Clorox wipe or spray with disinfecting spray. Normally, the surface needs to remain wet for 30 seconds to kill viruses.

How should I wash my produce?

The produce itself can be washed with a 1:1 white vinegar to water solution. I keep this in a spray bottle and spray my produce, let it sit for about a minute, and then rinse it with regular water. Alternatively, you could fill a large bowl or sink with ½ white vinegar and ½ water and soak your produce and then rinse and dry it before putting it in your fridge.

I’m still too nervous!

If all this information is increasing your anxiety, the easiest solution is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables. The nutrient content is identical to fresh vegetables. You can wipe down the bags before placing them in your freezer, or just let them sit for 3 days in the freezer before use.