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Washing Apples is Never 100 Percent Effective, Study Shows

Washing Apples is Never 100 Percent Effective, Study Shows

A new and somewhat alarming study recently revealed that although they’re washed prior to shelf placement, apples, especially non-organic varieties, are sold with skin that’s loaded with pesticides. The produce is treated with numerous sprays and protocols prior to shipment — largely to protect them from encroaching insects and fungi. Sellers are aware of this, and therefore wash the fruit before putting them on display.

But these washing treatments rarely ever work to remove chemicals completely.

Grocers wash their produce with a number of different techniques including bleach solutions, baking soda, and a simple rinse. A group of researchers published a study analyzing the effectiveness of these techniques in removing two types of pesticides, phosmet and thiabendazole — and the results were dismal.

Since pesticides, especially “systemic” pesticides like phosmet, often sink deeper than surface-level on the skin of apples, none of the methods were 100 percent effective.

Researchers say you could peel your apples to be completely sure you’ve removed the chemicals — though, as toxicologist Dr. Motoko Mukai, pointed out to CNN, “that reduces the nutritional content, so that’s a tradeoff.” What’s also a tradeoff is the labor-intensive process of slicing off the skin. And if you struggle to get yourself to eat your daily servings of fruits and vegetables already, having to spend 5 minutes preparing your apple might just deter you from making a healthy choice.

Of all the methods that were tested, baking soda proved most effective. This is the method that penetrated the skin’s layers deepest and really broke down the harmful chemical residue. In the study, the baking soda treatment removed 80 percent of thiabendazole contamination and 95 percent of phosmet. We like them apples a whole lot better.

To conduct this rinsing treatment at home, simply mix a teaspoon of baking soda into two cups of water. Then, use the water to rinse the apple.

If that sounds like too much effort for you, though, you can either go organic or make peace with the horrifying facts that make you want to.


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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


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

Editor's Note: Today (March 30) Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen emailed Live Science to say that "the video was made ahead of various experts weighing in. As we move forward I have reviewed the emerging opinions, consulting with many. We are working to edit the video right now to recommend that fruits and vegetables be washed with running water as your article outlines."

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.

"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."

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, who works in private practice as a family doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted the video to YouTube on March 24. Since then, it's been seen about 16.5 million times.

"I 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," VanWingen told Live Science. "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, he advises people to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible, to wipe down shopping carts with disinfectant, and to go shopping for those older than 60 years old, as they might have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).

But other advice VanWingen gives is less scientifically sound. For instance, VanWingen advises people to keep new groceries in a garage or porch for at least three days, if possible. (Later, in his interview with Live Science, VanWingen said this didn't apply to refrigerated or frozen goods.) Then, VanWingen suggests that containers bought at the store be disinfected or discarded.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the virus could stay on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, although the overall concentration fell significantly by that time. But the practice of quarantining and then sanitizing food containers before putting them in the refrigerator or pantry isn't necessary, Chapman said.

"We don't have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus," Chapman said.

As for VanWingen's disinfecting suggestion, "it's not based on any science," Chapman said. 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."

Hand cleaning is key, said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You should clean your hands after returning from the store. "And if you're still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer," he said. Also, clean your hands before preparing a meal and before eating.

"You know what? That was good advice even before the pandemic," Schaffner said. "And it's going to be good advice after the pandemic, too." (Schaffner expands on these ideas in his Twitter thread about VanWingen's video.)

As for people concerned about food packaging harboring the virus, "I get it," Schaffner said. "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."

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