Americans fearful of COVID-19 are stocking up on powdered milk, dried beans, canned meat and other goods untouched by humans, bypassing bins filled with fresh fruit and vegetables.
But there’s no evidence, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that a coronavirus can be transmitted through food or food packaging. Like other viruses, it’s transmitted primarily through person-to-person contact.
COVID-19 viral particles don’t like soap and water, which break down the outer layer of protection provided by saliva or mucus. So treat fresh fruits and vegetables as you would your hands — wash them with soap and water. Scrub hard-skinned produce like apples or lemons with a soft-bristled vegetables brush. Soak leafy produce, like fresh lettuce, in soapy water for up to 15 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly.
While in a grocery store, choose your produce by eye, not touch. Avoid increasing the chance of a depositing a pathogen — yes, you could be a carrier — on fruit or vegetables. For those with a weakened immune system, look for pre-packaged fruits and vegetables or, to play it ultra-safe, eat cooked fruits and vegetables.
But let’s say someone with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, touches or breathes on fresh produce. Viral particles could live on the fruit or vegetables for several hours. If you were to touch the fruit, then touch your face, you could become infected.
But all fresh produce is safe to eat if properly washed. Don’t overdo it with antibacterial soap — viral particles do not have bacterial cell membranes.
Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.
Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.
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