News National Coronavirus: How should you wash raw fruit and vegetables?
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Coronavirus: How should you wash raw fruit and vegetables?

Healthy food yesterday. Photo: Getty
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**UPDATED 21/4/20**

Under nationwide stay-at-home orders, more and more Australians are pulling on their aprons and getting their hands dirty in the kitchen.

But in the fight to protect ourselves from the coronavirus, questions have been raised over the potential dangers of eating fresh, unwrapped fruit and vegetables from the supermarket.

So how do you cook fresh fruit and vegetables safely?

Do you need to wash them more than usual?

And is it possible to contract the virus by eating infected foods?

The good news: There is no evidence that suggests you can become infected by eating the coronavirus, so don’t shy away from eating uncooked food like apples.

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that is usually transmitted via the nose and eyes.

If it does make it way down to our stomach, the acid is expected to inactivate the virus, says Cathy Moir, a senior food microbiology consultant at the CSIRO.

However, we still need to consider the risks with groceries and food.

Professor Dale Godfrey, an immunologist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said it was incorrect to say there was no risk at all of picking up the virus via food.

“Even though the virus may be degraded by stomach acids, there are virus receptors in the mouth and oesophagus for the virus to attach before it gets to the stomach,” Professor Godfrey told The New Daily.

“Given people often inhale through their mouths, any virus in your mouth could end up in your respiratory tract and lungs.”

Fortunately in Australia, where community transmission remains relatively low, eating uncooked foods wasn’t “high-risk”, he said.

But if you want to take extra precautions then disinfect, then rinse and/or cook your vegetables before eating them.

This will destroy the virus.

Should we wash fresh food more than usual?

Pandemic or not, it is always a good idea to wash fresh fruit and vegetables in cold water before cooking with them.

But you don’t need to go overboard due to the virus.

When you wash them, hold them under a running tap and rub them under water.

Do not use wash your food with hand-washing soap or detergent. All it will do is make your food taste soapy.

There is also no need to refrigerate food that you wouldn’t normally.

It won’t affect your chances of contracting the virus.

You should, however, definitely wash your hands thoroughly before preparing a meal, and avoid touching your face as much as possible.

The virus can survive for hours or even several days on surfaces, so you should regularly wipe down your kitchen to remove grime and dirt too.

It’s also worth remembering that fresh produce can be handled by hundreds of people in a supermarket before it ends up in your pantry or fridge.

Just think of the number of times an avocado could’ve been given the squeeze test in one day.

And although many supermarket workers wear gloves and disinfect their hands regularly, other shoppers might not be so careful.

This is why it is so important to wash your hands as soon as you get home from the supermarket.

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