United Fresh Urges Kiwis to Eat More Fresh Produce and to Wash It First

30 March 2020

United Fresh Urges Kiwis to Eat More Fresh Produce and to Wash It First

New Zealanders can safely purchase fresh fruit and vegetables during COVID-19 and our country’s only pan-produce organisation that represents the entire value-chain, United Fresh, is reminding Kiwis to wash all produce as you normally would by rinsing it under the tap before consuming it. It is not advisable to wash fresh produce with detergent.

United Fresh President Jerry Prendergast says there is an increasing amount of misinformation in the media and on social media regarding the role of food in the potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus. 

“United Fresh reinforces the message from the World Health Organisation that fresh produce is safe and consumption of fruit and vegetables is encouraged during this time.

“In the home, wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds and dry thoroughly before preparing food and also before eating.  Wash your fresh fruit and vegetables as you normally would,” he says.

According to the New Zealand Food Safety & Research Centre, so far, there is no evidence that humans have been infected by swallowing the virus in or on food or drink. The European Food Safety Authority has also stated there is no evidence that food is a likely source or root transmission of COVID-19.

Prendergast says it is more important than ever that food businesses apply strict food preparation and hygiene practices.

COVID-19 is commonly transmitted through breathing in the virus from the sneeze or cough of someone who is infected, or through hand to mouth/nose/eye contact after fingers have touched a contaminated surface.

Infection is unlikely to occur if food handlers in food businesses and in the home follow standard, good personal hygiene practices that reduce the risk of transmission of most foodborne illnesses.

These practices include:

  • proper hand hygiene
  • safe food practices
  • cough/cold hygiene practices
  • avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing

Prendergast says the best thing New Zealanders can do right now, apart from staying home, is to build their immunity by eating fresh produce.

“Fresh fruit and vegetables provide nutrients—like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E—that can boost immune function.  Kiwis should aim to eat 5+ A Day that is five or more servings of colourful, fresh fruit and vegetables every day for health and vitality.

He says the country has a plentiful supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in New Zealand during this time and beyond.


For further information please contact Anne-Marie Arts, Food Safety Representative, United Fresh Technical Advisory Group -

For more COVID-19 food safety information and updates, visit

For the latest information form the New Zealand Food Safety & Science Centre visit

For more information about United Fresh visit