Should You Clean Your Produce Before You Eat it?

8 minute read

With stay-at-home orders in place across most of the U­.S. because of the COVID-19 crisis, access to fresh produce can be a little hit and miss. Some people are still shopping at grocery stores using safe distancing, while others have turned to grocery delivery services and weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes to help keep their home stocked.

 We’re all feeling a lot more stress and uncertainty as we try to cope with this “new normal.” One of the side effects of all this stress – and sometimes boredom – has been an increase in unhealthy eating habits.

Sales of chips, snacks, and other processed foods are making a strong comeback, as shoppers buy processed foods that have a long shelf life, are quick and easy to make, and even provide some emotional comfort to help ease those long, housebound days. At the same time, sales of fresh produce are down, reversing a long trend towards healthier eating. Some grocers have seen as much as a 90% drop in sales of fruits and vegetables, as restaurants close and consumers worry about the safety of produce out on display. 

We all know that to stay healthy, we should eat healthy. Stress worsens our mood and suppresses our immune system, but nutrients in fruits and veggies have been shown to support the immune system and spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, helping you feel less anxious and stay healthier too. 

The question is, how can we safely eat the healthy fruits and vegetables we need during the coronavirus pandemic?

Is produce still safe to eat? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Because coronavirus doesn’t survive well on surfaces, there is likely a very low risk of spread of COVID-19 from food products or packaging. Nevertheless, the CDC recommends washing all fruits and vegetables, organic or conventional, to help remove dirt, microbes, and some pesticides. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns consumers not to use soap or detergent to wash produce. They aren’t approved for use on foods and could leave a residue that could make you sick. Bleach solutions should never be used on foods for the same reason.

A smarter way to wash fruits and veggies

 While the CDC recommends rinsing produce under running water if you’re looking for a more thorough clean, you can use a produce cleaner, which is designed specifically for food. ECOS® Fruit + Veggie Produce Cleaner uses a safer, plant-derived surfactant to remove unwanted residues and contaminants like dirt, and wax from produce. Third-party testing has shown that using ECOS Fruit + Veggie Wash is more effective at cleaning produce than washing with just water. Plus, it’s free from scents and dyes, so you won’t be left with any odor or soapy aftertaste.

It’s easy to use in the kitchen – just spray directly on food, or soak (depending on what you’re washing). But first, wash your hands with soap and water before handling produce (we recommend using ECOS Hypoallergenic Hand Soap). 

For firm produce like apples or carrots, spray enough ECOS Fruit + Veggie Wash to cover the entire fruit or vegetable, and then rinse with water. For produce with a lot of surface area, like broccoli or grapes, or delicate produce like berries or greens, make a solution of 1 tablespoon of ECOS Fruit + Veggie Wash to 8 cups of water. If using warm water, soak for 5–10 minutes; for cold water, soak for 10–15 minutes. Swish the water around once or twice before straining and rinsing your produce.

Stay healthy, stay safe! 

Because this virus is especially dangerous for those with preexisting health conditions, and because COVID-19 may be with us for months or years to come, it’s vital to keep eating a healthy, produce-rich diet and to cut back on those nutrient-depleted packaged and processed foods.

Like the CDC says, two of the most important things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are to wash our hands and clean and disinfect our homes. Often. Products like our ECOS One-Step Disinfectant Cleaner help make cleaning and disinfecting a little simpler. You may want to consider washing your produce too and eating a diet that supports your long-term health and well-being. Like your first health expert (your mother) said, “Eat your greens!”

For more information on food safety, visit the CDC’s food safety site. ECOS is also always here to answer your questions; reach out to us here or on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.