Facts about fresh produce during COVID-19

Media Release

7 April, 2020

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has upended supply chains across every industry, but the fresh produce community has been hit particularly hard. Many people are avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables – some of the most nutritiously-dense options in stores – in favour of canned and frozen foods because of fear or lack of information.

To address this, the Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ), Australia and New Zealand’s leading fresh produce industry association, is working to ensure consumers are well-armed with positive practices and accurate facts about produce during this time.

With input from experts including Dr. Max Teplitski, PMA’s Chief Science Officer, Deon Mahoney, PMA A-NZ’s Head of Food Safety, and Dr. William Li, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Eat to Beat Disease,” PMA A-NZ has pulled together top-line tips and facts surrounding the benefits of buying and eating fresh produce.

The Nutritional Value of Produce

Now more than ever, it’s important to consume fresh fruits and vegetables, which can help boost the immune system and overall health during a time when everyone is less active and more susceptible to viruses. In addition, many fresh fruits and vegetables have proven scientific association with one or more of the body’s five health defence systems.

“No single factor in our lives is going to prevent sickness, but there is a way to boost our own defence systems. A big part of that is consuming fresh produce,” says Dr. William Li, an internationally renowned physician, scientist, and author of the New York Times bestseller “Eat to Beat Disease.”

“The rules have not changed for healthy eating, even with the emergence of COVID-19. Consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes boosts our health defences. This can help our bodies prevent and fight chronic diseases, as well as improve our defences against infection”, Dr. Li said.

COVID-19 and Food

The mode of transmission of COVID-19 illness is largely through person-to-person contact, and via respiratory droplets.

Information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) indicates that there is no evidence that food is the likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19.

However, WHO have issued precautionary advice advising of the need to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly, and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods.

“Prepare and wash your fruit and vegetables as normal – wash them in cold running water and peel and cook where appropriate. Don’t use soaps or detergents as they’re not formulated for food”, says Deon Mahoney, Head of Food Safety at PMA A-NZ.

“It’s important for consumers to be deliberate in planning their trips to the supermarket to adhere to the Government advice around social distancing. However, it’s important to remember that the threat is not food or food packaging, but other people”, Mahoney said.

PMA A-NZ has released a range of resources to help fresh produce businesses succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which are free to the public at pma-anz.com.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to consume fresh fruits and vegetables, which can help boost the immune system and overall health”, Mahoney said.

Source: PMA A-NZ.