CORONAVIRUS | How To Properly Wash Our Market Produce

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Can the virus be spread through touching produce? Read on to learn how to limit your risk.

**UPDATE 3/25/20** Just as rapidly as this virus is spreading, so is the information on how it is contracted. 

Originally it was thought that the virus could be spread through produce. We don’t know for sure. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that food is not a vector.

So much can change in a week!

“According to multiple health and safety organizations worldwide, including the CDC, the USDA, and the European Food safety Authority, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging. Previous coronavirus epidemics likewise showed no evidence of having been spread through food or packaging.”

**THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT IS NOW PROVED FALSE** According to Felicia Goulet-Miller, an instructor of microbiology at a Florida university, if someone were to sneeze or touch their nose, and then the food items, COVID-19 could live on that item for several hours and up to 15 hours. If another person were to touch it and then their face, they could become infected. Again, exactly like a cold or flu virus would transfer.

“There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging.”

Good to know and one less thing to have to worry about during the pandemic.

Please go to Serious Eats; Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide for more information. 

Here’s 4 pieces of simple advice to keep you healthy:

  • If your not already doing so, bring your hand sanitizer with you to the market. The wipes they provide for our carts are great for our carts, but it’d be good practice to use a sanitizer throughout the store as you shop, making sure to do so after going through the produce section, after touching the door handles in the frozen section, and after using the touchscreen at checkout. A good rule is to touch nothing unless you absolutely have to. 
  • When reaching for produce, grab a produce bag, turn it inside out like a puppet on your hand, grab your produce, and then flip the bag back through. This really helps limit your exposure. 
  • Don’t eat any produce until the next day if possible.
  • Wash everything thoroughly before eating (see below.)

 

HOW TO PROPERLY WASH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Having clean and fresh produce is elemental to Eating Clean and Living Well. Bacteria, viruses and other pathogens can hide amongst the nooks and crannies and make us incredibly sick if ingested.

There’s not really much to it—just soap and water folks and a little technique.

I suggest a Castile soap (found at the natural market) that’s free from fragrance and phosphates to use specifically for your produce, because who wants that lingering on their foods? And do not use anti-bacterial soaps as they are for bacteria, not viruses, something you also don’t want lingering on your ready-to-eat produce. You could purchase a produce wash, but good ol’ soap and water works just as good and it’s easier on the pocketbook. Just a few drops is all you need. You don’t want bubbles or you’ll be rinsing forever!

Make sure you wipe down all surface prior to prepping, especially if you are in a shared space. 

 

 

WASHING VEGETABLES

ASPARAGUS

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Snap off the end of one asparagus stalk and use as a guide to chop off the remaining bunch.
  • Submerge the asparagus and lightly scrub with a soft vegetable scrubber, or fingers, in the direction on the tip.
  • Rinse well and pat dry.

BEETS, TURNIPS, RADISHES

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Use a knife to cut off the leaves and bottom end of beet. Discard or compost. If you are planning to eat the greens, follow directions for “Greens” below. 
  • Submerge the beets and lightly scrub with a soft vegetable scrubber.
    Rinse well and pat dry.

BOK CHOY, SWISS CHARD

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Remove any yellowing leaves and compost or discard.
  • Use a knife to cut off the thick base of the bok choy or swiss chard.
  • Separate the leaves and stems.
  • Submerge the bok choy stalks and lightly scrub with a soft vegetable scrubber or fingers.
  • Place the leaves in the water and swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Let rest for no more than 2 minutes for any dirt or little creatures to settle.
  • Gently scoop out the greens and stalks and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse stalks and leaves well and pat dry.

CARROTS

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Submerge carrots and scrub with a firm vegetable scrubber. Organic carrots do not need to be peeled, but if you prefer, peel after rinsing.
  • Alternatively, you can put a drop of soap on a firm vegetable scrubber and wash under cold water one at a time.
  • Rinse well and pat dry.
  • Cut off each end.

OTHER CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES  

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Place in the water and swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Let rest for no more than 2 minutes for any dirt or little creatures to settle.
  • Gently scoop out and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse well under cool water.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry.

FRESH HERBS

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Place the herbs in the water and swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Let rest for no more than 2 minutes for any dirt or little creatures to settle.
  • Gently scoop out the greens and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse well under cool water.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry.

GREENS (kale, collards)

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Use a knife to cut the center stalk and compost or discard.
  • Place the leaves in the water and swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Let rest for no more than 2 minutes for any dirt or little creatures to settle.
  • Gently scoop out the greens and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse well under cool water.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry.

GREENS (spinach, arugula, dandelion, all lettuces, and other more delicate types)

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Place the leaves in the water and swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Let rest for no more than 2 minutes for any dirt or little creatures to settle.
  • Gently scoop out the greens and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse well under cool water.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry or use a salad spinner.

FRESH MUSHROOMS

  • Remove dirt by gently wiping mushrooms with a paper towel. Never get mushrooms wet.
  • It is best to wait several hours before eating or handling mushrooms since they cannot be cleaned with soap and water.
  • If mushrooms are prepackaged in cellophane or plastic wrap, the above wait time does not apply.

POTATOES, SWEET POTATOES

  • Under room temperature running water, place a drop of soap on a firm vegetable scrubber and scrub dirt off potatoes.
  • Potatoes do not need to be peeled but if you prefer, peel after rinsing.
  • Rinse well and pat dry.

SCALLIONS OR SPRING ONIONS

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Remove any yellowing or willing leaves and compost or discard.
  • Gently scrub onions with fingers to remove dirt from the tops and leaves.
  • Use a knife to cut off the tops.
  • Rinse well under cool water.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry.

SNAP PEAS, GREEN BEANS (and other small self contained vegetables)

  • Fill a large bowl with room temperature water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Submerge vegetables in the water and swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Gently scoop out and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse well under cool water.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry.

WASHING FRUITS

Peel or no peel, every piece of fruit should be washed before eating.

INEDIBLE PEEL (citrus, tropical, melons, avocados, etc.)

  • Under room temperature running water, place a drop of soap on fruit or in hands and rub surface for 30 seconds.
  • Rinse well and pat dry.
  • Cut fruit.

EDIBLE PEELS (grapes, berries, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.)

  • Fill a large bowl with cool water and 2-3 drops of soap. Swirl until well mixed.
  • Submerge fruits in the water and very gently swirl around 2-3 times, and then in the opposite direction 2-3 times.
  • Gently scoop out fruit and put in a colander to drain.
  • Rinse well under cool water, or for delicate berries such as raspberries, transfer to another bowl of clean fresh water and then transfer to colander to drain.
  • Place on a clean towel and pat dry.

Remember that this is something that needs to be done at all times, not just during a crisis.

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Hello Friend!

I’m Lorri — The Nomadic Health Coach! I’m an Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, foodie, writer, and widow of a three-time cancer hero. I learned how to Live Well during my 10+ years as a caregiver to my late husband Klink, and want to share healthy living advice and tips so you can live a more sustainable and happy life.
Lorri Weisen

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