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  • Should You Be Washing Vegetables And Fruits With Soap? Why Experts Think It's A Bad Idea

    Washing produce with soap and water can lead to a number of health issues.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Should You Be Washing Vegetables And Fruits With Soap? Why Experts Think It's A Bad Idea
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made people more careful and more vigilant with regard to the spread of the disease. Practicing good hygiene, sanitation, and disinfection has become a habit, especially during grocery runs and when coming home from outside.

    Apart from disinfecting grocery items, it has also become a habit to wash vegetables and fruits. With the threat of COVID-19, moms and dads have resorted to washing produce with soap and water. But according to food scientists, this is not a good idea.

    In an interview with Live Science, Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University clarifies why. “We’ve known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps. Drinking dish soap or eating it can lead to nausea, can lead to [an] upset stomach. It’s not a compound that our stomach is really built to deal with,” he tells Live Science. Instead, he suggests washing produce as you normally would, with running water.

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    In a viral video, Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, M.D., a practicing family physician in Michigan, shared how people can use doctors’ sterile technique in disinfecting groceries. (Read more about it here.) Part of it was pre-soaking produce in soapy water and then washing it with soap for 20 seconds.

    Chapman cautions against this practice, as it can lead to health issues like mild gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Produce is porous so it can absorb the soap, according to the specialist.


    In addition, there is no scientific evidence that using diluted bleach solutions, lemon juice, vinegar or even vegetable soaps can kill the COVID-19 virus, according to Chapman. Instead, he points out that ingesting bleach can be dangerous.

    Dr. VanWingen later clarified in his video's caption that fruits and vegetables should be rinsed with water but without soap. He also reached out to Live Science saying that “the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in.”

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    How to properly wash fruits and vegetables

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you can wash fruits and vegetables the same way you would in normal circumstances. But make sure to wash your hands with soap and water before handling the produce. "Then, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water, especially if you eat them raw," advises the WHO.

    For a thorough cleaning, place the produce under running water and rub it with your hands. “Don’t fill your sink with water and let produce sit in there,” Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, told NPR.

    For leafy, bunched vegetables, like cabbage and lettuce, first remove the outer layer and then rise with water, advised Luke LaBorde, an associate professor in Penn State University's Department of Food Science. Wash the vegetable a few times and spin in a vegetable dryer if you have one. Dry the vegetables first before placing in container and storing in the fridge, as removing moisture will prevent the growth of bacteria, according to LaBorde.

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    For fruits and vegetables with rinds, grooves, and waxy skin (like cucumbers, potatoes, oranges, melons, and calamansi), you can use a produce brush to scrub the outer exterior and remove any dirt clinging to the surface.

    Remember to wash until you no longer see any dirt, even if you’re not eating the skin, especially for citrus fruits and melons. “When you cut open the cantaloupe, you can transfer bacteria to the fleshy part inside,” says LaBorde.

    According to the WHO, the virus is probably susceptible to normal cooking temperatures. While there is not enough information about COVID-19, experts believe that cooking your food in the same temperature that is required to kill pathogens that cause foodborne disease can alo kill the virus. " That’s 145° F for fresh pork, beef roasts, steaks, chops, and fish; 160° F for egg dishes and beef; and 165° F for poultry, ground beef, casseroles, and leftovers, and to reheat precooked ham," says Consumer Reports. So keep this food safety precautions in mind when cooking your food.



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