By Clint Thompson
Even during times of global fear of the current coronavirus pandemic, fruit and vegetables are safe to eat, says Kristin Woods, Alabama Regional Extension agent, who specializes in food safety. That’s the message she is trying to convey to consumers who are fearful of the produce being sold in supermarkets and grocery stores.
“The kind of information that we’re trying to get out is the coronavirus is not spread via food. It’s a respiratory disease so it’s spread when someone gets those droplets from a sneeze or a cough,” Woods said. “We think that’s really the way it’s being spread worldwide right now. That’s why social distancing is so important.”
Florida produce farmers are already harvesting their crops with Georgia and Alabama not far behind. Woods emphasizes that the produce supply remains safe and it may even be more essential now to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that contain nutrients that boost your immune system.
A challenge that Woods and her colleagues currently face is dispelling misinformation that’s circulating social media channels.
“For example, there’s some stuff going around that you should wash your produce with detergent before you eat it. While that is probably not effective against spreading this coronavirus, it also could be harmful to your health,” Woods said. “There could be residues on produce if you wash it with detergent. If it’s not labeled for produce, it could actually soak into that skin of that fruit or vegetable and cause more harm than good.”
Woods said it’s important for people who are shopping for produce to wash your hands before you go, when you return and while shopping if possible. The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 70% alcohol is most effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus but should be used on clean hands.
Woods also recommends consumers rinse produce before eating because you never know what may have happened to it during its trip to the grocery store.
For more information on food safety, contact any member of the Alabama Extension Food Safety and Quality Team.