How to Disinfect Fruits and Vegetables

Wet cherry tomatoes in collander

These days, washing your fresh produce is more important than ever. (Photo courtesy Canva)

In the days of coronavirus, people seem to be disinfecting everything before they bring it inside their home, including their groceries. Perhaps you’ve wondered how or if you need to disinfect your fresh fruits and vegetables too. Here’s what you should know.

While most doctors agree that foods are relatively safe for consumption, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians like Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto, says that because you don’t know who else has touched the produce you bought, the safest thing to do is to bring it home and to wash it down. What should you use to do this?

The FDA recommends washing all of your produce with running tap water and a vegetable brush, except for precut items sold in bags that indicate they’ve been pre-washed. However, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that baking soda may be your best line of defense.

Soak produce in a baking soda solution of 1 teaspoon per 2 cups water. The longer you can soak it the better. The study found that it took a 12 to 15 minutes in a baking soda bath to completely remove contaminants, including pesticides, from apples. The study’s author, Lili He, PhD, states, “Many pesticides are not stable at alkali conditions, so baking soda can degrade them.”

Some produce, like berries, is more delicate however, and won’t stand up to that much time in the tub. Certified integrative nutritionist Karina Heinrich suggests making your own cleaning agent in a clean spray bottle. To do so, just combine 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spritz your produce with the solution and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse.

Something else to remember while actually shopping for food, Gupta says, is “If you touch it you buy it.” This isn’t the time to squeeze ten mangos to find the best one. 

[CBC News/Health]

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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