Mar 31, 2020

As much as we hate to admit it, the COVID-19 crisis has turned us into hyperconscious people. The latest in this overreaction that could have subsequent bad effects? Washing your fresh produce with a diluted bleach solution.

[READ: After grocery shopping, follow these steps to prevent the virus from entering your household]

Photo by leonie wise on Unsplash

Sure, these goods may harbor viruses and you really should take precautions before, during and after a grocery run. But washing these food items with bleach is—apart from having no scientific proof of effectivity—possibly dangerous. Why? Because fruits and vegetables are porous, meaning they can easily absorb these chemicals, which we will end up ingesting once we eat these supposedly “now-clean” food.


Ingesting bleach can cause serious health problems

Dr. Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University said in an interview that ingesting bleach is dangerous because, like soap, once it enters our body, can cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

While DOH issues guidelines on use of bleach solutions as disinfecting/santizing agents, please be advised of its proper…

Posted by National Poison Management and Control Center on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Furthermore, chemists are discouraging even the use of bleach (or hypochlorite) as a disinfectant solution for disinfection booths as it can irritate the skin, eyes and airways.

The ICP's X/XII/BARMM/CARAGA Chapter has issued an advisory discouraging the general public from using bleach (or…

Posted by Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP) on Sunday, March 29, 2020


How to wash fruits and vegetables properly

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Utah State University says in its website that the recommendation for washing fruits and vegetables has not changed because of the coronavirus. This is primarily because there is no published evidence that people have developed COVID-19 illness from touching food or food packaging, only studies that prove that coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for a limited amount of time.

[READ: Your phone can carry coronavirus for 9 days. Here’s how to disinfect it]

The best way to go according to the US Food and Drug Administration’s “four steps to food safety” is to rinse fruits and vegetables under running water without soap, bleach or commercial produce washes.


Use a produce brush

Under cool running water, use a produce brush on rough-textured produce such as potatoes, cantaloupe, carrots, etc. to scrub the surface vigorously. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, this method is effective at removing pathogens on the surface. Remember to dry it after with a paper towel or clean cloth towel.


Remove soil attached to the produce

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

“Most of the bacteria will be in the soil attached to the produce. Washing to remove any soil is, therefore, particularly important,” says the UK National Health Service. This is especially true for root crops and fruits and vegetables that are to be consumed raw.


“Can I use vinegar instead to rid of viruses on the surface?”

Photo by Crema Joe on Unsplash

Vinegar rinses are not known to be effective at killing viruses. Utah State University says adding vinegar or lemon juice to water or commercial products is only done to improve the surface tension of the water to help it rinse more effectively—it doesn’t actually serve as a microbial kill additive.

In the end, overall food safety depends on a variety of things, including the cleanliness of not just the produce itself but also kitchen surfaces and equipment. 

Contamination can also be avoided if proper storing and food handling are practiced. Thorough cooking can also make a huge difference. For your reference, the US Food Safety website has an index of minimum temperatures to ensure food safety here.


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TAGS: covid-19 disinfection food safety fresh produce fruits grocery kitchen hacks vegetables washing washing fruits and vegetables