Viral video advises washing fruit and vegetables with soap. Here's why that's a bad idea.

Mar 28, 2020
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I haven't seen the video and I don't have a strong opinion on whether I should wash produce with soap or not, but this article does not convince me that I shouldn't. It does convince me that livescience.com doesn't have very trustworthy writers/editors when it comes to science, and that Chapman should not be quoted on public health issues...
  • The advice to keep goods in a garage or porch for at least three days, to let the virus die on packaging, is perfectly scientifically sound. If Van Wingen didn't clarify it doesn't apply to non-refrigerated/frozen goods, that's a good lesson for him that you can't assume any common sense when communicating with a broad audience, but it doesn't make the advice less sound.
  • "We don't have any evidence..." is a dumb quote. I don't know whether it's Chapman's worldview that only peer-reviewed studies on this specific virus count as evidence, or the quote was taken out of context by the author, but it's completely obvious that food and food packaging can be a transmission vehicle. If someone coughs or sneezes on either one in the store, and you touch it, and then touch your face, that is a 100% plausible transmission vehicle.
  • "Not based on any science" is a dumb accusation. It is based on science, the science of soap killing this virus. It's probably better (since soap residue is harmful) to just wash your hands after putting the groceries away, and then wash your hands every time after touching any of the groceries and ideally before touching anything else, but that is a lot harder than just leaving most of your groceries untouched for 3 days, or washing them with soap if you need them sooner. It's even better to not touch your face ever, in which case it doesn't matter if everything you touch is infected, but that's even harder for many people...
  • "In theory"! This is hilarious because by Chapman's standard there's "no evidence" that this virus does not survive well in the stomach. There have been no studies published on it. But it's almost definitely true based on other coronaviruses, just like it's true that food packaging can be a transmission vehicle just like any other surface...

    Sure it's probably not on food. At this point with most people being careful, it's probably not on any particular surface you can name. If you take no precautions at all besides not standing near someone who is coughing/sneezing, you will probably not become infected, you're probably 99% safe. If you also wash your hands a lot, you're probably 99.99% safe. Everything else is just reducing a small (individual) chance of infection, to an even smaller chance.
  • The sentence "Furthermore, there is no evidence that vegetable soaps can destroy..." is incredibly misleading because it doesn't begin with "Although normal soaps do destroy SARS-CoV-2...". Also I don't know what vegetable soaps are, but if they clean with the same mechanism as normal soap, then there is tons of evidence.
  • "That may remove 90-99%" is a stupid statement to make. Assuming it's true... who wants to remove only 90-99% of a potentially fatal virus??? The whole point of using soap is that it destroys 100% of the virus! Washing hands with water is insufficient because the virus is "sticky", why would produce be any different?
Also: What are the chances of getting nausea or upset stomach after eating produce that was briefly washed with soap? I'm going to guess 1%. Are there long-term consequences? I'm guessing there aren't. Is the tradeoff something like a 1 in 100 chance of upset stomach vs a 1 in 100,000 chance of dying from coronavirus? I'd probably take the upset stomach (and at that point, maybe consider no longer washing produce, if it happens).
 
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Mar 11, 2020
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Having lived in China for twenty years I learned the hard way to ALWAYS wash fruit and veggies with soap and water, rinse well, IT WORKS. Then these morons say this:
"We've known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps," Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, told Live Science. "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."
You are NOT consuming soap you mental midgets, good God what idiots!
 

jattered

BANNED
Mar 29, 2020
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Having lived in China for twenty years I learned the hard way to ALWAYS wash fruit and veggies with soap and water, rinse well, IT WORKS. Then these morons say this:
"We've known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps," Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, told Live Science. "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."
You are NOT consuming soap you mental midgets, good God what idiots!
if you really need to use those mean words to prove a point, you need help. also, if you read the article, it make sense because it says these foods are porous and soap would get stuck in there. if you're doing this for many years and not getting stomach aches then good for you. you calling others mental for simple issues like this proves that there is irony in your statement.
 
Mar 29, 2020
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You read my mind!


I haven't seen the video and I don't have a strong opinion on whether I should wash produce with soap or not, but this article does not convince me that I shouldn't. It does convince me that livescience.com doesn't have very trustworthy writers/editors when it comes to science, and that Chapman should not be quoted on public health issues...
  • The advice to keep goods in a garage or porch for at least three days, to let the virus die on packaging, is perfectly scientifically sound. If Van Wingen didn't clarify it doesn't apply to non-refrigerated/frozen goods, that's a good lesson for him that you can't assume any common sense when communicating with a broad audience, but it doesn't make the advice less sound.
  • "We don't have any evidence..." is a dumb quote. I don't know whether it's Chapman's worldview that only peer-reviewed studies on this specific virus count as evidence, or the quote was taken out of context by the author, but it's completely obvious that food and food packaging can be a transmission vehicle. If someone coughs or sneezes on either one in the store, and you touch it, and then touch your face, that is a 100% plausible transmission vehicle.
  • "Not based on any science" is a dumb accusation. It is based on science, the science of soap killing this virus. It's probably better (since soap residue is harmful) to just wash your hands after putting the groceries away, and then wash your hands every time after touching any of the groceries and ideally before touching anything else, but that is a lot harder than just leaving most of your groceries untouched for 3 days, or washing them with soap if you need them sooner. It's even better to not touch your face ever, in which case it doesn't matter if everything you touch is infected, but that's even harder for many people...
  • "In theory"! This is hilarious because by Chapman's standard there's "no evidence" that this virus does not survive well in the stomach. There have been no studies published on it. But it's almost definitely true based on other coronaviruses, just like it's true that food packaging can be a transmission vehicle just like any other surface...

    Sure it's probably not on food. At this point with most people being careful, it's probably not on any particular surface you can name. If you take no precautions at all besides not standing near someone who is coughing/sneezing, you will probably not become infected, you're probably 99% safe. If you also wash your hands a lot, you're probably 99.99% safe. Everything else is just reducing a small (individual) chance of infection, to an even smaller chance.
  • The sentence "Furthermore, there is no evidence that vegetable soaps can destroy..." is incredibly misleading because it doesn't begin with "Although normal soaps do destroy SARS-CoV-2...". Also I don't know what vegetable soaps are, but if they clean with the same mechanism as normal soap, then there is tons of evidence.
  • "That may remove 90-99%" is a stupid statement to make. Assuming it's true... who wants to remove only 90-99% of a potentially fatal virus??? The whole point of using soap is that it destroys 100% of the virus! Washing hands with water is insufficient because the virus is "sticky", why would produce be any different?
Also: What are the chances of getting nausea or upset stomach after eating produce that was briefly washed with soap? I'm going to guess 1%. Are there long-term consequences? I'm guessing there aren't. Is the tradeoff something like a 1 in 100 chance of upset stomach vs a 1 in 100,000 chance of dying from coronavirus? I'd probably take the upset stomach (and at that point, maybe consider no longer washing produce, if it happens).
 
Mar 29, 2020
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1) There is a big difference between detergent (synthetic) and soap. Surprising that a food scientist and USDA don't recognize this and use these words more carefully/accurately. Soap suds enemas and some oral laxatives are FDA approved and made of soap. In addition, if you don't wash produce in 3rd world countries in soap you will find out the result (and you definitely will not need a laxative!)

2) USDA food safety rules were made for conditions in the US, where bacteria are the major concern and water with brushing is all that is needed. When a virus becomes the major concern, for example hepatitis A in 3rd world countries, norovirus, corona virus, and the consequences change - death vrs food poisoning discomfort, then the choice of how to wash things will change.

3) The major route of transmission of COVID19 is not known (respiratory vrs orally) and it would be prudent to error on the side of caution when deciding what to wash produce with. For any elderly person with risk factors that choice should be obvious -- soap and water.
 
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Mar 29, 2020
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The previous commenters make a lot of good points! But...

My issue is that in the article, one theme is that "if there is no peer reviewed study, then the issue is not valid." The important thing to always remember, is that no information does not make a point invalid. it just means that someone needs to actually test the hypothesis!!

Further, in regards to the soap detergent question, a good rinsing is all that is necessary to rinse off the majority of the soap/detergent and you won't get sick or even have an upset stomach.

We have not had any ill-effects from using THIS process: fill the sink with warm water to a depth of 4-6 inches, give it a shot of dish detergent (as if setting up to wash dishes), dump the fruits or vegetables in so they are covered with the water and rub each one to make sure the solution covers the entire surface. Scrub rough items like potatoes with a brush. Let all these items sit in the soltion for at least 5 minutes. Then remove them in a collander or sieve and rise thoroughly (a couple of minutes) with a spray of fresh water from the tap. Drain and air dry on a clean surface. Store in the usual way, fridge, closet, pantry or usual place, after they are completely dry.

Keep healthy, avoid the corona virus...
 
Mar 31, 2020
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plates are not porous. at least not the surface, and no soap will get stuck in there if you wash them nicely.
So, if we use known science, we know that dose makes the poison. This is a common discussion in the UK since their style of dishwashing *does* leave residue on plates, and more importantly forks and spoons that actually go in your mouth.

First of all, drink from a sink of soapy (and he actually means detergent-y) water with a jet of soap in it is unlikely to kill you or make you sick, as anybody who has ever bathed a baby or small child knows. (see https://www.babycenter.com/404_is-it-normal-for-my-baby-to-drink-bathwater_3652421.bc) So, even if fruits and vegetables are as porous as you say, you're not getting a poisonous dose. But also: try soaking your fruits and veg in food coloring and see if they actually change color? Porous is also relative (and FWIW, there is a degree to which plates are porous too.)

I don't think this doctor is giving advice that will do anything other than make already panicky people feel better. I don't agree that his methods are necessary - but let's not go overboard and use bad science to say that his methods are dangerous.
 
Feb 16, 2020
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Having lived in China for twenty years I learned the hard way to ALWAYS wash fruit and veggies with soap and water, rinse well, IT WORKS. Then these morons say this:
"We've known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps," Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, told Live Science. "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."
You are NOT consuming soap you mental midgets, good God what idiots!
 
Feb 16, 2020
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I whole heartily agree that you should wash fruit and vegetables with soap and soak them, them rinse and soak in water. I am not talking about viruses, but pesticides and herbicides. Try this experiment - take grapes you normally eat and soak them in veg rinse or soap, then do the same in water. You will notice that there is no tang, just flavor of the grapes. The pesticide residue gives you that familiar tang in the back of your throat. Pesticides are oil based and straight water does not do anything. Simple science tells you that pesticides are water insoluble, what good does simple rinsing do? Be healthy and soap rinse everything, and then rinse with water.
Don't eat the soap, that is just plain stupid
 
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lex

Apr 3, 2020
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I understand the point about food being porous and soaps being absorbed. Point taken. How about Fruit & Veggie Wash from Trader Joe's?
The people quoted in the article are not virologists as far as I can tell. With regards to the article advising not to worry about the virus being on the packaging or ingesting the virus, both points are coming from the perspective of a lack of evidence that the virus is transmitted that way. However, lack of evidence is not evidence to contrary and I'd rather be safe than sorry. It has been shown that the virus can last on various surfaces for days, so why not also the often-plastic packaging that groceries come in? Also, there are other viruses that can infect through the digestive system. We simply don't know yet. So other than helping to keep people from ingesting soap, I found this article without merit.
 
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Apr 3, 2020
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Dish soap is simply a surfactant and as such has the ability to penetrate into the fruits and vegetables. At our house, I make a sanitizer using 6% hydrogen peroxide and 5% acetic acid (vinegar) to create peroxyacetic acid. My wife adds 1/3 cup of the peroxyacetic acid compound to 1 gal of water. This yields a 10 PPM solution. She places all our "ready to eat" vegetables and fruits in this for 5 minutes. No need to rinse. The beautiful thing about this sanitizer is that it breaks down to oxygen and water. It is totally safe and more important very effective against viruses and gram + and - bacteria. It is also effective against biofilms.
 
Mar 18, 2020
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washed with soap and water vs washed just with water= soap wins

but it should be hard hand soap, because liquid soap is hard to wash off the surface and you don't want its taste
 
Apr 4, 2020
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Enough already with half-baked "science" or "expert advice". Just because someone has a PhD or MD doesn't mean they know diddly-squat about everything. We're being overwhelmed by self-proclaimed "experts" claiming they have information about handling the coronavirus. They don't, especially when the advice defies common sense. When there is a NEW infectious disease, it's new and nobody knows much. The best advice is to be overly cautious and protective. I'd rather eat a little soap than a lot of virus.
 
Mar 20, 2020
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Despite what a doctor in a viral video suggests, it's not a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, food scientists told Live Science.

Viral video advises washing fruit and vegetables with soap. Here's why that's a bad idea. : Read more
I don't know who said washing produce with soap, was a bad idea, but when it is done properly, it kills bacteria, fungus AND viruses. They actually make a soap especially for this. Ask a transplant doctor about whether you should use soap and water on produce, or cold water.
 
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Apr 12, 2020
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“Although not mentioned in the video, the internet is rampant with other unscientific advice, such as using a dilute bleach solution,”

Dilute bleach solutions does have scientific backing (and is used in production for a lot of what you buy from the grocery store), but is not too surprising considering this so-called expert or this horrible article. Dilute bleach has been thoroughly studied and recommended. A simple search results in documents like this from universities (there are many available, most of the top results from university agriculture extension programs) - https://www.lsu.edu/agriculture/plant/extension/hcpl-publications/8_Pub.3448-WashWaterChlorineDisinfection.pdf (and they also detail how human pathogens can be sucked into the inside of fruits if the correct temperature of water is not used - indicating this could be a concern on food vs this novel virus). Science.

“As Chapman told Live Science in a previous interview, in theory, coronaviruses do not survive well in the very acidic stomach.”

Which completely ignores the commonly accepted and quoted fecal-oral transmission of this disease. Which would suggest, since you can ingest this disease, that it would fare ok in the GI system. One example source: https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/85315
 
Apr 21, 2020
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Having no evidence about something does not mean it is not possible. There are a lot of assumptions in this article.
 
Apr 26, 2020
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I haven't seen the video and I don't have a strong opinion on whether I should wash produce with soap or not, but this article does not convince me that I shouldn't. It does convince me that livescience.com doesn't have very trustworthy writers/editors when it comes to science, and that Chapman should not be quoted on public health issues...
  • ...

Thanks! You beat me to it. This article was really disappointing for me. I thought Live Science was better than that.

Coronavirus is an encapsulated virus. It is encapsulated in lipids (fat). Fat is taken apart by soap, that's how dish soap cleans people's greasy dishes. So soap will take apart the membrane that surrounds the virus, effectively disassembling it. Your finger prints looks like the Himalayan Mountains to the virus, and soap also breaks the surface tension of water allowing it into all the crevices in your fingerprints. It will work the same way on packaging, produce, whatever.
 

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