(03/26/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — Hand-washing, social distancing and avoiding touching any part of the face are among the most prescribed recommendations across the globe for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Another practice that has become an important part of that public mantra is following proper cleaning practices to limit the survival of the COVID-19 virus on surfaces.
People have raised concerns about increased risks associated with handling purchased food products from grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus may remain viable from several hours to several days on surfaces, depending on the surface type.
“While we currently have no data to show that surface-to-person transfer has occurred, we must assume that it is possible and must minimize any risk for transfer from the surface of foods to human beings,” said LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari.
Adhikari has developed a set of posters to aid consumers, producers and sellers in minimizing COVID-19 risks by cleaning and disinfecting foods and other surfaces.
Two of the posters focus on best practices to minimize COVID-19 risk during harvest and at farmers markets. They were developed primarily for growers and producers. Publication 3724, “Best Practices to Minimize COVID-19 Risk While Harvesting Fresh Produce,” can be found online at https://bit.ly/2Jf6wA0, and Publication 3726, “Best Practices to Minimize COVID-19 Risk at the Farmers Market,” can be found online at https://bit.ly/2WSi6ZI.
“Many producers are concerned about the safety of their workers and clientele as well as their product,” Adhikari said.
AgCenter Publication 3725, “Cleaning and Disinfection of Food-Contact and Touch Surfaces for the COVID-19 Virus,” is for the public as well as producers and includes instructions for properly preparing bleach cleaning solutions at various volumes. It can be found online at https://bit.ly/2UCp7Lz.
Consumers should beware of misinformation currently being spread across the internet and on social media about using soap and water to clean fresh produce, Adhikari said.
“Only EPA-approved sanitizers should be used to disinfect fresh produce, and bleach is one of those approved products,” he said, adding that many soaps can be toxic and should not be used to clean food.
While cleaning alone would remove most germs and dirt from surfaces that contact food or that people touch, thorough disinfection after cleaning will kill any remaining germs on any cleaned surface, he said.
Funding for the publications was provided in part by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Program.