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Sanitizing Fruits and Vegetables before Consuming

Last Updated on March 7, 2021 by Ashwini G

Coronavirus has no doubt changed lives all around the world. Basic things that you took for granted have suddenly become luxuries or even a distant memory. With the current lockdown enforcement taken by the authorities to curb the epidemic in India, everyone is at home, safe from the virus. But the question that arises is; Are you safe? Are you sure that coronavirus cannot gain entry into your homes? The answer is no. You cannot be sure that coronavirus will not enter your home. Merely being in isolation does not guarantee that your house will not get contaminated. This is because when you break the isolation pattern to step out for daily fruits and vegetable shopping, you might just be bringing the virus back home with it. So how do you protect yourself from this mishap? This guide will help you thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables to prevent any contamination.

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

Research as of date has shown that the coronavirus disease is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when the person:

  • Coughs
  • Sneezes
  • Talks

How Can Coronavirus Spread Through Fresh Produce?

As of date, research has concluded that there is currently no evidence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for the coronavirus disease, spreading through contaminated food and fresh produce. But then again, coronavirus is known to survive on hard surfaces like the banana peel. As per WHO, the coronavirus can survive on surfaces from a few hours to several days. Another 2013 study on the coronavirus group, in general, concluded that this family of viruses survive in food items and on the food surfaces of strawberries and lettuce from 4 to 10 days. Given this, it behooves to remain cautious under the current situation.

So picture this. A contaminated person without a mask sneezes in the fruit shop without practicing good hygiene. The respiratory droplets released might land on the fruits around him. This will transfer the virus onto the fruit surface, thereby contaminating the produce. The same goes for the vegetables as well. The scariest part of this scenario is that it is not the only scenario. There are countless other ways for fresh produce to get contaminated. Hence there is no way you can be a hundred percent sure that the fruits and vegetables you purchase from the market are corona-free.

Sanitizing Your Fresh Produce

The important thing to remember is that the fresh produce goes through numerous points of exposure, coming across a high volume of people before it makes its way into your home. Apart from coronavirus, you need to protect yourself from other contaminants as well. Some of these are

  • Wax
  • Dirt
  • Chemicals
  • Other Pathogens

But there is no reason to panic. You can effectively protect yourself without having to forgo your favorite fruits and vegetables with the below-outlined guide.

  • Hand Hygiene: Wash your hands first before you start handling your fresh produce. Keep in mind that good hygiene recommends washing for at least 20 seconds to effectively kill the coronavirus that might be on your hand surface. This will ensure that you do not accidentally transfer the virus onto your fruits and vegetables.
  • Cold Water: You should not clean your fresh produce with soap and water or any other chemical solution. Simply rinsing them thoroughly under cold water from the tap is enough to get rid of all the germs and viruses, including the coronavirus.

There is a lot of misinformation floating around, which recommends using soap solutions or chemical solutions, or even bleach. But remember that fresh produce is porous. All of these substances can and will find their way inside the fruits and vegetables, causing a host of gastrointestinal problems for you. Best cleaning practice for different types of fresh produce is detailed below:

  • Leafy greens: Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water. Immerse your leaves in the water and swish them around thoroughly. Let it sit in the water for a minute. Drain the water and fill it with fresh water. Repeat the process a few times before transferring the leaves into a colander and washing them under running water. Examples of leafy greens are Spinach, Bathua, Methi, Mint and coriander leaves, Lettuce, salad leaves, etc.
  • Root vegetables: Simply scrub them thoroughly under cool running water. Examples include Potatoes, Beetroot, Sweet potato, etc.
  • Sturdy produce: They need to be rinsed properly under cool water. Each stem must be properly scrubbed. Instances include Beans, Capsicum, Cucumber, Grapes, Apples, Watermelon, etc.
  • Tender produce: These have to be treated gently. They should be rinsed under a gentle stream of cool water to ensure that the product does not get bruised in the process. These include Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Chikoo, Kiwi, etc.
  • Be Thorough: The most important part of cleaning your fruits and vegetables is to ensure that you are thorough. You need to rinse those vegetables and fruits on all the sides under the water stream to make sure that the entire surface is cleaned and not just give the produce a cursory wash. Remember, the virus needs to be washed away with water. This is only possible when the fresh produce is scrubbed properly and effectively.
  • Add vinegar to the water or give the produce a baking soda bath: If you feel that water is simply not enough and you have to go the extra mile for your peace of mind then consider adding a dash of vinegar to the water or give the produce a baking soda bath before washing them under cold water. Both these agents are known to remove all germs and bacteria effectively.
  • Drying: It is important to leave the fruits and vegetables to dry before putting them away in the refrigerator or the pantry. Just layout a cloth on a clean sanitized kitchen counter and spread the fruits and vegetables on it to dry. Alternatively, you can just leave them in the colander or a porous bowl to dry.

FAQ Corner

Which is the best way of disinfecting fruits and vegetables

Experts believe that most surface contaminants can be effectively taken care of by washing the fresh produce under cold water and scrubbing them appropriately. You should not use a soapy solution or disinfectant on fruits and vegetables.

Is baking soda washing a good idea for fruits and vegetables?

If you want to do something extra than just simple cold-water washes, then you can add a little bit of baking soda to the water. This will take care of most pesticides.

Can fruits and vegetables transmit coronavirus disease?

As of now, there is no evidence that hints at fresh produce being able to transmit coronavirus. However, the virus is known to survive on surfaces, and if the fresh produce comes in contact with an infected person, and when you touch it or eat it, then you are susceptible to contracting the disease.

Do you need to wash fruits and vegetables because of the coronavirus?

Once again, you don’t necessarily need to wash the fresh produce for coronavirus’s sake. You should wash it nevertheless for food safety and get rid of all possible contaminations. It’s just that with coronavirus doing the rounds you should take extra care while washing

Remain Smart Not Stressed

It is easy to fall prey to the various bits of information you come across in a pandemic situation. You might have started thinking twice before stepping out to buy even the basics. But remember, your health is the top priority. You need to eat a well-balanced nutritious diet to keep your immunity healthy and strong. So step out in a planned fashion and buy your fruits and vegetables just bear a few things in mind regarding their cleaning and you are all sorted with coronavirus.

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