Recently we’ve been getting a lot of questions about food safety during COVID-19. We had the pleasure of talking with Derek Spors of Spork & Ladle, a food scientist in Boulder, CO.
In this video, we will address the following questions:
- How do we safely clean fresh fruits and vegetables?
- Can we safely eat raw leafy greens?
- Are there any concerns about COVID-19 spreading through the workforce and contaminating foods?
- What cooking temperature is needed to deactivate COVID-19?
- How long can COVID-19 live on something in the fridge or freezer?
- Are there concerns with purchasing fresh sliced deli meat and cheeses? bulk items?
- Is it safer to shop yourself or get grocery delivery?
- Is it safe to order takeout from local restaurants?
- Are there certain foods that can modulate the cytokine response?
- Making decisions for a novel virus based on the “wrong analysis” concept
Please tune into this lively and educational interview!
You will find some of the helpful takeaways listed below. If you have any additional questions, please ask them in the comment section at the bottom of this page and Derek will be happy to answer them for you.
Lastly, please feel free to share this post with anyone who might benefit from this interview and information.
- Bleach bath for produce: 1 Tbsp bleach in 1-gallon (16 cups) water; soak for 1-2 minutes; rinse very well. This assumes use of a 5.25% hydrochloride bleach (no added fragrance, etc.); for other strengths adjust accordingly. This will make a 200ppm solution recommended by the Department of Homeland Security. (Always be mindful when using bleach, as it can bleach your fabrics & clothing as well.)
- To use a small amount of soap to assist in cleaning produce, use a natural dish soap and rinse the soap off completely. Only do this on produce with smooth surfaces (avocado, apple, bell pepper, etc.) so you ensure that you are not ingesting soap!
- To disinfect packaged food products and surfaces, use one of the EPA registered disinfectant cleaners listed here. You can also make a more concentrated bleach solution of 4 tsp bleach (5.25% hydrochloride) per quart (4 cups) of water; do not use this concentration on produce – only surfaces! (Always be mindful when using bleach, as it can bleach your fabrics & clothing as well.)
- Research varies some, but generally an internal temperature of 133-156 degrees Fahrenheit deactivates the COVID-19 virus in 1-3 minutes of cooking, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
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Thank you so much!
You are welcome! We hope it is helpful!
Thanks for this interview. Very helpful. I’m not clear in how to handle porous foods like strawberries where even soaking them could absorb liquid or possible virus. Everything I am reading says do not soak strawberries because they absorb. I can’t really wash them with soap because they absorb. What’s the best way to handle something like those.
Excellent question! I would not soak any berry in chlorine. Strawberries are typically purchased in containers that are open to allow some air flow, so there perhaps is a higher risk of the strawberries themselves being contaminated by other shoppers. However, I suspect that your biggest risk is from the packaging itself (and this is not a major risk). I suggest transferring them to your own container after purchasing. Even if your berries did have some surface contamination of coronavirus, rinsing with water would remove much of the virus. Before eating them, just rinse them with tap water like you typically would. Since coronavirus is not a foodborne illness, it will not infect you via your digestive system, even if you did not remove all of it. As always, wash your hands well before and after you eat, and avoid touching your eyes or nose while eating!
I was curious about the effectiveness of cleaning fruits and veggies with a white vinegar/water mix, rather than bleach or soap for things like leafy greens, berries, etc. (or really just in general for those of us who don’t keep bleach in the house). Is that a good alternative?
If you really did not want to use chlorine or soap to wash your food, I would use plain tap water to remove any potential surface contamination (this is a good idea in general, not just for coronavirus). Keep in mind, there is a pretty good chance that your fresh produce was already exposed to chlorine in some form during processing before it got to you! Pure vinegar would likely have some effect on the virus if given enough contact time because of its low pH. However, this would certainly impact the flavor of your food. While still being researched, coronavirus seems stable a large pH range — 3-10. Pure, 5% vinegar has a pH slightly below 3.0. I do not suggest using vinegar to protect yourself from coronavirus.
The video was very informative. Thank you!
Before our last trip to Mexico, I purchased Microdyn (Recommended on TripAdvisor) to disinfect any fruit and vegetables that we purchased. It seemed to work very well based on the fact that although I had some stomach issues on previous trips, I did not experience any on this trip. I’ve continued to use it now on some fresh produce because of the Corona virus and in general because everyone squeezes and sniffs produce. How do you feel about Microdyn?
I am not very familiar with Microdyn. It’s possible this is a treatment for the water itself, which would not be an issue in the US. Without knowing what its active ingredients are, I cannot suggest you use it to protect yourself from coronavirus (I also cannot say it would not be effective). I would stick to water, soap & water, or water with chlorine for washing your food. People are your real risk, not your food. Washing your fresh food before consuming is a good idea in general. With coronavirus, food is a very low risk. Take steps when they are practical to mitigate small risks.