Fresh fruit and veg won’t give you COVID-19: industry

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Shoppers should wash fruit normally.
Camera IconShoppers should wash fruit normally. Credit: Victoria Pearson

Don’t shy away from fresh fruit and vegetables because you’re scared of contracting COVID-19.

That’s the message from a coalition of groups urging Australians to keep fresh fruit and vegetables at the top of their shopping lists.

Hort Innovation, AUSVEG, Nutrition Australia and CSIRO issued a joint statement today, encouraging the public to follow Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s recommendations that “there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through food and extra care should be taken with hygiene when handling food”.

The group’s message came Michigan family doctor Jeffrey VanWingen went viral this week after sharing a YouTube video urging the public pre-soak fruit and vegetables in soapy water, and wash it again with soapy water for 20 seconds.

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His advice had been viewed more than 18 million times within five days.

CSIRO principal research scientist David Cocks urged Australians to ignore “misinformation” and take note of “trusted sources”.

“In a time of misinformation the best advice to follow is the advice of trusted sources based on the most up to date scientific evidence,” he said.

“That’s why we are urging Australians to follow the latest advice from FSANZ that COVID-19 is not transmitted by food.”

Hort Innovation chief executive Matt Brand said it was important consumers knew that food, including non-packaged fruit and vegetables, was not known to transmit the virus.

“Perhaps now, more than ever before, it is important that Australians eat a healthy, nutritious diet to boost their immunity,” he said.

“They can do this by purchasing and eating the range of fruit, nuts and vegetables that continue to be available on store shelves.”

Nutrition Australia Victoria chief executive Lucinda Hancock echoed Mr Brand’s sentiments.

“Healthy eating is proven to help build and maintain a stronger immune system, for all ages,” she said.

“I urge everyone to keep picking the fruit and vegetables from shelves, wash them and enjoy their health benefits.”

The World Health Organisation says consumers should be careful to wash their fruit and vegetables to avoid the spread

AUSVEG chief executive James Whiteside said people should wash produce “normally”.

“Even at this difficult time, Aussie farmers are continuing to produce more than enough fruit and vegetables to supply all Australians,” he said.

“Keep buying fresh produce, wash it at home as you would normally do and use the natural nutrition to help you in your fight against COVID-19.”

The horticulture industry’s message comes one week after National Farmers Federation launched a national campaign reassuring Australians that there is “more than enough to go around” and urging people to stick to their normal buying patterns.

NFF president Fiona Simson said Australians did not need to be concerned about a national food shortage amid growing virus-related fears, Australian farmers produced enough food to feed 75 million people — three times the country’s population.

“Bare supermarket shelves can be unsettling during these uncertain times and it’s natural to want to look after our families as best we can,” Ms Simson said.

“However, in the days and months ahead, Australians can be reassured that farmers are not shutting down.

“It’s business as usual. Farmers are getting on with the job, continuing to produce the meat, grains, milk, fruit and vegetables that we all love and rely on.”

“Two-thirds of what our farmers produce each year is exported for the world to enjoy,” she said.

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