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Alarmist grocery “PSA” video full of misinformation about food and COVID-19

In his YouTube post, “PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic,” family practitioner Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen appears to scrub apples and oranges (that had been soaking in soapy water) with a Lysol wipe.

I first saw “the video” on Friday morning posted in a local moms’ group on Facebook.

This YouTube post, “PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic” — and the viral response it has gotten — is getting under my skin.

Just like the soap that Michigan family practitioner Jeffrey VanWingen suggests using to wash fresh produce. Getting food is “risky,” he says, but his solutions make it sound like you need a hazmat suit to go to the grocery store. And that’s not the case.

Among other gems from the video, Dr. VanWingen says to “imagine that the groceries you have are covered with glitter” and that soap and disinfectants remove the glitter.

He recommends the “sterile technique” to bring groceries home, and suggests consumers remove COVID-19 from infected groceries by:

  • Leaving groceries out in the garage or car for three days;
  • Wiping down all plastics, like the outside of a package of overwrapped broccoli with a disinfectant wipe;
  • Discarding packaging, including fresh produce packaging;
  • Soaking fresh produce in soapy water, and then washing each piece individually (in this case it was oranges and apples) — “I do think the better you are soaking the fruit, the better it’s going to be as far as your chances of getting that completely sterilized from coronavirus.”

As I watched the video again in order to write this, I noticed he started scrubbing an apple with what appeared to be a Lysol wipe. I died inside a little.

This video is thirteen minutes of paranoia…completely unnecessary paranoia.

The science just doesn’t support the outrageous levels of caution that Dr. VanWingen is taking, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

When I first saw the video, it had about 3 million views. As I’m watching it three days later, it has 20 million views.

I’ve seen shared back and forth on all kinds of social media, but that’s not the worst of it. The comments that follow (especially in moms groups that I’m in) indicate people are terrified of groceries – AND fresh produce – and they’re avoiding anything they can’t sterilize.

Once more, for the people in the back, food does not transmit COVID-19.

COVID-19 is not something you ingest. If you eat it, it will die.

Washing fresh produce needn’t be more than 10 seconds under cool, running water.  But, count to 10 while you’re doing it. Have you ever actually wash an apple for the recommended 10 seconds? Most people don’t. Sing a little song like you’re washing your hands. 

Takeout is safe.

Groceries are safe.

Wash your hands after you go to the store.

Eat your fruits and veggies.

And maybe listen to some experts in infectious diseases. If you need your information filtered through entertainment, he’s a good one with The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and Dr. Anthony Fauci:

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.