If you’ve been frantically washing your produce in soapy water in hopes of scrubbing away the novel coronavirus, you’re definitely not alone. But food safety experts actually advise against this.
Even though soap is a kitchen staple and is effective at preventing the spread of the virus, it’s designed for cleaning surfaces and hands, and isn’t formulated with consumption in mind — meaning scrubbing your apples with soap isn’t a good idea, even if you’re worried about reducing virus transmission.
To learn more about the do’s and don’ts of produce cleaning, we reached out to food safety experts. Here’s what we learned:
Why isn’t it a good idea to wash produce with soap?
Consuming soap can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and other forms of gastrointestinal distress. Not only are those unpleasant, but they mimic some of the symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and could send you to the hospital, placing undue stress on our already-overburdened health care workers and facilities.
Gastrointestinal distress generally happens after consuming soap in relatively large quantities, but food safety experts say it’s still not a good idea to wash your produce with soap. Washing with soap can also impact the flavour of your food.
“Consumers should not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent or soap,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes in an online fact sheet. “You could ingest residues from soap or detergent absorbed on the produce.”
Don Schaffner, extension specialist in food science and distinguished professor at Rutgers University, likens the use of soap on produce to using a BB gun to kill a fly. “It might work,” he said. “But it’s probably not the best tool.”
If soap isn’t advised, how can I clean my produce?
In a world where everything feels increasingly complicated, cleaning your produce is as simple as it gets — all you need to do is gently rub your produce while rinsing with running water. “There’s...