How to Sustainably Wash Groceries During Coronavirus

Dr. Jeffery VanWingen from Grand Rapids, Michigan posted a video on YouTube on how to wash groceries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus using mainly Lysol as his cleaning agent.

There are many YouTube videos that talk about how to wash groceries or specifically how to wash the packaging that the groceries come in, but there are not a lot of websites that give tips on how to wash groceries that kills the coronavirus without using harsh chemicals and detergents or how to sustainably wash groceries. 

“What I have been doing is take all the things that are in packaging, I take them out of the packaging immediately and throw that away and that’s a quick and easy way to do it,” said Professor Carla Grandy of earth science and the Director of Guided Pathways and Comprehensive Redesign at Skyline College

Grandy said that leaving and not touching groceries that is not going to be used immediately is another way of making sure groceries are safe because the coronavirus lives on different surfaces for a certain amount of time. She said that how long the coronavirus lives depends on the surface anywhere from days or weeks. 

“If you can put things away and not use them right away then you don’t even have to clean the surface,” said Grandy.

 Skyline College student Katelyn Brandt said that her family doesn’t wash their groceries because they are washing their hands a lot and wearing masks and they believe that taking those steps are enough to be safe.  

“I think soap and water is like the most probably eco friendly right now in less you are using like a cleaner like “Simple Green” or something that’s a little bit less harsh,” said Brandt.

The FDA does not recommend using soap, detergents or “commercial produce wash” to wash your fruits and vegetables. 

 “No, You Don’t Need To Disinfect Your Groceries. But Here’s How To Shop Safely,” by Maria Godoy was an NPR segment that aired on April 12, that talked about how it is not necessary to wash your groceries and how people just need to take certain precautions such as social distancing, washing hands and other helpful tips that people can take while grocery shopping and when they are putting away their groceries that will prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Donald Schaffner, a distinguished professor at Rutgers University and food a microbiologist said on the segment to wash fruits and vegetables with cold water and use a clean vegetable brush to scrub down produce that have a tough skin. 

“A lot of the packaging that groceries come in is really not meant to be sprayed with disinfectant, and you [could] actually end up contaminating your food,” said Rachel Graham, a virologist at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, who studies coronaviruses, on the segment.

Skyline student Jiselle Saavedra said that her family washes their vegetables for 10-15 seconds in water, hot or cold, and they wash their fruits for one to two minutes in a water bath.

“We try to reduce the amount of water usage we use when washing vegetables and fruits,” said Saavedra.

With information constantly changing and different articles giving different viewpoints on whether groceries need to be washed or not, people might find it difficult to know how to make sure groceries are safe to eat during coronavirus and how to safely prepare groceries sustainably. 

“Make sure when you are go to your certain sources it’s either reputable and your are able to trace it back to where they are getting their information from and it’s not somebody who is making it up,” said Landon Smith, who is a Sustainability Coordinator Fellow at Skyline College. 

Professor Christine Case, a biology professor at Skyline College recommended reading “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home,” from the CDC for information. 

Many people might think that we should focus on getting rid of the virus and not worry about sustainability until after the pandemic is over but Grandy said that sustainability and coronavirus should not be mutually exclusive. 

“I think that sustainability is always very important, a lot of the spread of disease is actually closely related to climate change, so as temperatures get warmer diseases have an environment in which they can be more successful and so as climate has changed we have seen more of these large spread diseases and it is not this one necessarily but some of the other like SARS and other things that are particularly related to any kind of parasite or mosquito or anything like that do really well in a warm environment. So we have been seeing these things more as climate changes and I think unfortunately that we will continue to,” said Grandy.