Fruit, veg and Covid-19: France issues safety advice

Advice has been issued in France on how to safely eat fresh fruits and vegetables during the Covid-19 crisis, answering key questions on how to prepare, eat, and clean fresh food. We translate.

3 April 2020
Washing fruit and vegetables with clean water, and wiping down packaging, is recommended
By Connexion journalist

National food safety agency l'Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’Alimentation, de l'Environnement et du Travail (Anses) has offered responses to key questions, based on scientific data. Answers translated by Connexion, from the original here.

What should I do if I am ill?

If you are ill, you should avoid food preparation (or touching food) or cooking for others.

How do I get rid of the virus on fruit and vegetables?

Wash them in clean water before consuming or cooking them.

Then wipe them down with a single-use, disposable kitchen towel. Never use disinfectant or detergent such as bleach, as you risk poisoning if it is accidentally not washed off enough. You do not need to use white vinegar to clean food.

Can I eat raw fruit and vegetables, or do I need to cook them?

For vegetables, cooking at 63°C (medium heat) for four minutes destroys any virus present. For vegetables and fruits eaten raw, washing in clean water will suffice.

What hygiene rules are there for packaging?

You should clean packaging with a cloth or a damp kitchen towel, or take food out of the packaging and dispose of it where possible. It is not necessary to use bleach. White vinegar is not effective against resistant viruses.

What should I do when I come back from going food shopping?

Firstly, wash your hands. For fresh products that need refrigerating, take off all excess packaging and wipe down the products with a single-use, damp, disposable kitchen towel before putting them away. Wash your hands carefully after each.

  

Do I need to heat up bread [before eating it]?

No. The cooking of the bread at high temperatures will have already destroyed all traces of the virus. Bakers, like other professionals, must adhere to hygiene rules (such as regular hand-washing, wearing gloves, and using bags to store bread). The risk of the virus being spread in this way is negligible, so extra heating before eating is not required.

However, if you are ill, you should absolutely not touch bread that may be eaten by others.

Can you get Covid-19 from contaminated surfaces?

Studies have shown that the virus can stay active on surfaces for several days, but the risk of catching the virus after touching contaminated objects is still low. However, this is why it is important to not touch your face while out shopping for food, and to wash your hands carefully when you return home.

How should I clean potentially-contaminated surfaces?

Use normal household cleaning products. These will eliminate all traces of the virus. Alcohol (70°) can also be effective, to disinfect door handles, computer keyboards, or your phone or tablet.

You are advised to use bleach and bleach-based products with caution, as this can be a major irritant for the skin and membranes. It can even cause burns in some cases, and also damage fabric and other materials.

The above is the advice from the French government.

We note in addition this article, from University College London, which says that household surface wipes work through antiseptic properties which so far have not been shown to be effective against the virus: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2020/mar/analysis-household-cleaning-products-which-are-effective-against-coronavirus

Read more: Advice for receiving parcels during Covid-19 crisis

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