No, you don’t have to spray your groceries with bleach to prevent the coronavirus. Food safety guides advise against using bleach or detergent on anything you’re going to eat.
The most likely cause of a coronavirus infection, according to experts, is person-to-person transmission, which is why social distancing is so important for prevention when grocery shopping. The best way to protect yourself is to shop during non-peak hours.
If you’ve been frantically washing your produce in soapy water in hopes of scrubbing away the coronavirus, you’re definitely not alone. But food safety experts actually advise against this.
Even though soap is a kitchen staple and is effective at preventing the spread of the virus, it’s designed for cleaning surfaces and hands, and isn’t formulated with consumption in mind — meaning scrubbing your apples with soap isn’t a good idea.
All you need to do is gently rub your produce while rinsing with running water. “There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash,” the US Food and Drug Administration said.
Since there’s currently no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through food, produce washing guidelines are the same as they would be if we weren’t facing a pandemic.
Based on research related to foodborne illnesses and other viruses, somewhere between 90% and 99% of what’s on the produce can be removed with running water, explains Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University.
Does water temperature matter?
Chapman said warm water is fine, “but you’re not going to get any further removal than you would if it was just cold.”
Should I wash produce as soon as I get home, or right before I use it?
Chapman suggests rinsing your fruits and vegetables before eating rather than as soon as you get home from the store, as rinsing right away could cause your produce to go bad faster. There are active compounds on the produce that keep it from decaying, he explains, and these are removed when rinsing. But if washing your produce as soon as you get home makes you feel better, that’s a fine option.
Are special produce washes effective?
Don Schaffner, specialist in food science and professor at Rutgers University said produce washes are likely safe and effective, but many haven’t been tested in a rigorous scientific way, so it’s hard to say if they’re more effective in removing bacteria and viruses than simply rinsing with water. “And of course nothing out there has been evaluated against this new coronavirus,” he said.