Expert criticizes viral video that advises washing fruit and veg with soap
After a video uploaded by a doctor advising people to wash their fruit and vegetables with soap went viral last week, a food safety expert has advised consumers that that's a bad idea.
Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Monday, it's been seen more than 21 million times.
Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained to Live Science what the dangers are of doing this.
"We've known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps," Chapman was quoted as saying.
"Drinking dish soap or eating it can lead to nausea, can lead to [an] upset stomach. It's not a compound that our stomach is really built to deal with."
Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.
VanWingen told the publication that he had felt "an urgency to get the word out to people that despite the stay-at-home order [in Michigan], we need to use caution when we go out".
"That's really the most important piece of the message: If you don't have to go out, don't. But if you must, to get food, do so with caution."
In the video, VanWingen does offer some more accepted advise, like spending as little time in the grocery store as possible, wiping down shopping carts with disinfectant, and going shopping for those older than 60 years old,
But Chapman said that VanWingen's produce disinfecting suggestion is "not based on any science".
A better way to handle new groceries is to put them away and then wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, Chapman said. "It's not to say that washing my hands is magical, but it's as effective as what he's suggesting."
Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, also advised washing hands after returning from the store and also after putting groceries away.
As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner told Live Science. "But here's the thing, it's probably not on food. And even if it is on food, it's not going to make you sick from eating that food."
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