It’s important for the produce industry and its advocates to tell and remind consumers that COVID-19 is not transmitted via fresh produce nor its packaging.
Like always, consumers should wash their fresh produce, unless it’s pre-washed and labelled “ready to eat,” said Max Teplitski, Chief Science Officer, for the Produce Marketing Association BB #:153708, during its first Town Hall webinar to address the pandemic, March 25.
Washing fresh fruits and vegetables with soap isn’t necessary, he said.
In a follow up video after the webinar, Teplitski moderated a talk with Emory University food virologists, Dr. Juan Leon and Julia Silva Sobolik.
Sobolik called SARS-COVID 2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, a “wimpy virus” when it comes to living in the environment, compared to noroviruses and hepatitis A, which are foodborne pathogens and much tougher to kill.
Leon said the high level of food safety that the produce industry practices should continue, which will help prevent contamination from any viruses.
But companies should review FDA guidance on coronaviruses to ensure their employees are taking precautions against transmitting COVID-19 via person-to-person contact, and not coming to work if they’re feeling ill.
“We’ve said it a million times. SARS-COVID-2 is a respiratory virus not a foodborne virus,” Teplitski said.
In a worse-case scenario where a person with COVID-19 sneezes on a piece of produce that is then eaten by someone who doesn’t have the diseases, Sobolik said there’s no evidence that transmission of SARS-COVID-2 is transmitted via food, even with this, as the digestive system has shown to be too tough on this virus.
It’s a respiratory virus, and that’s the only way scientists have seen it transmitted.