While in the supermarket recently during the pandemic, I was like, “Ok, I need to pick spinach for my smoothie,” but they are quite exposed to air and people’s breathing. So I was wondering: what are the risks of using them uncooked in a smoothie? Is there any particular way I can wash them or use them to minimize risks associated with the coronavirus and COVID?
Regarding the whole coronavirus situation, there is, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation and lack of proper education that is circulating throughout our society at this time, which has also generated a lot of unnecessary fear, given how the virus has been politicized, weaponized, and taken out of medical and health context. Without turning this answer into a book on immunology and viruses, please note that viruses are completely different in how they act than bacteria. Yet, most people and even experts alike, refer to them like bacteria and try to apply the same prevention or treatment measures. Most bacteria that we are regularly subjected to can be killed by sufficient heat, and so thinking about consuming foods cooked or uncooked makes sense. However, viruses are not living beings; they are only particles of nucleic acids and protein. Most medical and science professionals still really do not fully understand them, even though our society often makes it seem like we do. Some viruses cannot withstand being outside of a body and away from living animal tissue for minutes before being deactivated. And while some bacteria can make toxins that can make people sick, viruses are more like waste products within the person’s body that can accumulate due to diseased internal conditions. When virus particles are passed around, they can only replicate inside the cells of another host with diseased internal conditions. Therefore, there is a lot that we can do to reduce the risk of having a coronavirus impact us in any negative ways.
1. Take measures to create a healthy internal environment in the body
The first thing to focus on is to keep one’s body as clean, balanced, and healthy as possible BY having a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle habits. Our immune system protects us from millions of different invaders daily. It does what it was intended to do when we support our body, rather than work against it by creating a toxic, imbalanced, and diseased environment through ingesting harmful foods and drinks and other substances, not getting enough sleep, leading a high-stress life, not being active, etc. Working with our bodies, rather than against them, through dietary and lifestyle habits, will offer us the most protection, prevention, and peace of mind when it comes to all acute and chronic diseases. Nature did not set us up to fail, but we must take responsibility for our health and internal state of being via our choices and actions each day.
2. COVID is a respiratory, not a digestive disease
Secondly, we need to use what we already know about coronaviruses and the SARS-cov2 virus that is attributed to COVID-19, as follows. Given that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, its standard route of infection is NOT through eating food that had any virus particles on it. The virus understands the cells of the respiratory system and accumulates its waste products there. It is not like the Hepatitis virus or HIV, which requires completely different modes of entry and have an affinity for different cells and systems in the body. So the risk of getting COVID via eating or drinking is extremely unlikely, if not altogether impossible.
3. Coronavirus transmission is strongest via respiratory droplets
Thirdly, coronaviruses are generally transmitted person-to-person through respiratory droplets, such as when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and an uninfected person is in the vicinity to inhale those droplets. Coronaviruses are not very good at transmission via surfaces. According to the WHO, “There is currently no confirmed case of COVID-19 transmitted through food or food packaging.”
So there are a lot of “ifs” and “unlikelihoods” to have any concern about any raw fruits and vegetables in grocery stores or similar spaces to be a risk factor for a coronavirus. The sequence of events that would have to happen to create a risk is unlikely, and in most cases, unrealistic. First, a sick person would have to be in direct contact with the specific food and deposit enough of the virus particles on it by coughing or sneezing on it or near it. The likelihood of such a sick person being in a store today and being able to cough/sneeze openly, given all the warnings, restrictions, and precautions is unlikely. Additionally, if it was a healthy or asymptomatic individual who manages somehow to cough/sneeze on the food, they are unlikely to deposit enough of a viral load to be of any risk or concern. Then, there would have to be virtually perfect time coordination between when a potentially sick person deposited enough of the viral load on that particular raw fruit or vegetable, such as a leafy green bundle, and another person picking it up and taking it home. The virus is not good at surviving on surfaces long periods of time, so just the time in the store, nevermind the ride back home, storage in the fridge, and such, would all play a role in reducing the risk further and further, down to it being of no concern. The key concern is what we are doing with our hands at any time that we are out in public, and simply making sure that we are not directly touching our eyes, nose, ears, or mouth while out in public spaces and possibly touching all kinds of other things.
How to take smart precautions
In conclusion, the risk of COVID from eating raw produce is extremely unlikely, and no other unique preparation methods are required to handle the produce from a grocery store today, aside from what should always be done: wash your hands thoroughly upon coming home AND wash the produce thoroughly under running water before using it to prepare and consume. A vinegar wash or a special produce wash, as some people like to do, especially if they have a compromised immune system, is possible. Still, these are mostly designed for bacteria contamination problems. As long as the produce is washed in clean, uncontaminated water, in most cases, that is all that is needed to rinse/wash any raw fruits and vegetables that will be consumed.
We cannot forget too that we have stomach acid for a reason to disinfect our food before it goes into the intestines and bloodstream and that only fails when intestinal bacteria are excessively high in the food (i.e., undercooked animal foods), with some bypassing this safeguard, and our body is already in a state of imbalance or disease that makes it unable to kill any that get through further down the line. Otherwise, between stomach acid and our immune system, we continue to function correctly despite being subjected to millions of foreign particles each day. I wish the media and health organizations made people more aware of this, as this kind of info is greatly lacking today and contributing to all sorts of irrational and unfounded fears. As far as we know, and as far as everything points to today and has in the past, coronaviruses are a risk to the respiratory system when inhaled, not when eaten.
In the end, I cannot emphasize enough that the most important thing at this time in our society (as should always be) is to focus on cleaning up and out one’s body and supporting our bodies (and minds) in the best of ways. When the body is optimally supported, it can overcome pretty much anything, as it was perfectly designed to do. We have to remember this always and not allow the fear-mongering of today’s media and lack of meaningful education from our health organizations to cause us to forget this and operate from a state of dizzying fears, anxieties, and worries.
For more general info from the medical authorities:
If you are located in the US, please refer to the following guidance from the Mayo clinic
If you are located in Canada, please refer to the following guidance from Health Canada
And if you are located elsewhere in the world, you can still refer to the above two sources or find the guidance issued from your local health authorities.