STEPHENTOWN, N.Y. — With coronavirus precautions still in place throughout the country, many consumers are concerned about the safety of fresh foods they purchase, whether from grocery stores, farmers’ markets, or their local farm stores. As we look ahead to the start of berry season in May, the New York State Berry Growers Association offers this guide to berry safety and washing, to ensure the health of your family.
According to the FDA, there are currently no documented cases of COVID-19 transmission from fresh produce, including berries. In fact, experts note, the risk of becoming sick from eating fresh produce contaminated with a pathogen such as E. coli is exponentially higher than the risk of contracting coronavirus from it. This is because COVID-19 is transmitted not via ingestion, but via droplets that are inhaled or otherwise introduced into the mucus membranes. In order for the virus to be transmitted via fresh fruit, the fruit would have to be handled by an infected person, and soon after handled by a non-infected person who then immediately touched his or her nose or eyes.
The best course of action, according to the CDC, is to wash your berries and other produce under fresh, running water for 20 seconds, then wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating. Avoid using soap, bleach, chlorine, alcohol, or any other type of sanitizer, which are toxic to ingest, on either your skin or your food.
While some articles and social media videos have recommended washing all produce as soon as you get home from the store, Dr. Marvin Pritts, professor of horticulture at Cornell University, disagrees. “I would not recommend washing produce as soon as you get home, but rather right before eating it,” he says. “The virus will degrade over time if it is on the fruit. And you don’t want to encourage [the development of] other pathogens and decay organisms by wetting fruit and then letting it sit for days in a refrigerator.”
Founded in 1988, the New York State Berry Growers Association (NYSBGA) is a nonprofit educational association for berry growers, from large wholesale family farms to independent farm stands and small pick-your-own operations, across New York State. The NYSBGA promotes the growing and marketing of berries through the exchange of valuable information, including scientific research and farming techniques. We also represent growers in issues of labor, research, and technology, both academically and legislatively, and award research grants to study and address issues important to New York State berry growers.
To locate a farm in your area of New York that sells fresh, locally grown berries, visit our Find a Farm directory. Or bookmark our blog for nutritional information, recipes, and original serving ideas.
–Robin Catalano, New York State Berry Growers