International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases

: 2020  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 157--158

Can Fruits and Vegetables be Infected or Contaminated by COVID-19?

M. S. Shahid, A. M. Al-Sadi 
 Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Al-Khod, Oman

Correspondence Address:
M. S. Shahid
Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Al-Khod 123

How to cite this article:
Shahid MS, Al-Sadi AM. Can Fruits and Vegetables be Infected or Contaminated by COVID-19?.Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2020;10:157-158

How to cite this URL:
Shahid MS, Al-Sadi AM. Can Fruits and Vegetables be Infected or Contaminated by COVID-19?. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Aug 18 ];10:157-158
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Full Text

Plant viruses are a major problem to cultivated plants, particularly fruits and vegetables. Humans and animals are daily exposed to plant viruses. Plants are generally considered incompatible hosts for human and animal viruses. Similarly, plant viruses are not considered pathogenic for animals and humans. However, this does not entirely exclude the possibility that viruses can cross kingdom barriers. There are few examples of plant viruses that can proliferate in their insect vectors, which raises concerns that plant viruses could possibly overcome the kingdom barrier and be able to infect humans. The detection of a plant infecting virus, Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) in human samples raised concerns from the possible interactions between plant viruses and human hosts. Although TMV (Genus: Tobamovirus, Family: Virgaviridae) is a plant infecting virus having positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome, it has been shown to translate (express viral proteins) in animal cells.[1] This study demonstrates that a virus that naturally infects plant cells can enter and persist in vertebrate cells.

Currently, COVID-19 is a global health crisis, which is not only affecting food security, but also raises many questions about the infection or contamination of fruits and vegetables by this virus. Until now, no evidence is available about the possible of infection of fruits and vegetables by Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. This is possibly due to the differences in cell organization between the two kingdoms. Little information is available concerning the potential infection of humans by plant viruses. However, recombinant phytoviruses, such as TMV, potato virus X, Cucumber mosaic virus, Papaya mosaic virus and Cowpea mosaic virus have been used experimentally in human recombinant vaccine production,[2],[3],[4],[5] which raises the possibility of crossing boundaries between plant and human cells. Given that SARS-CoV-2 can potentially stay on the surfaces of fruits and vegetables as a contaminant for hours to days, care should be taken. Contamination of fruits and vegetables by the virus is likely to happen during handling from the point of production in the field, through marketing to the time of use by the consumer. Various steps can be taken to minimize the chance of fruits and vegetables been contaminated by COVID-19. Workers suffering from COVID-19 should not be allowed to come into contact with produce, to avoid spread of the virus to consumers. Hygiene measures need also to be followed at all levels. It is important for workers/sellers to wash their hands well with soap before dealing with fresh produce. It is also better to purchase fruits and vegetables that have just arrived in the market. This is because agri-food products stored for longer periods of times are more likely to have been handled than fresh, increasing the chances of virus contamination. All fresh produce should be thoroughly washed under running tap water before consumption, but for certain items hot water should be used. Certainly cooking destroys the virus. According to the Food and Drug Administration (, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be caught from fresh produce. However, if we look into the past epidemics of coronaviruses, including those causing SARS in 2002-2004 and Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012 to 2013, it has been shown that the viruses causing these diseases can survive and spread on hard surfaces. Therefore, fresh fruits and vegetables cannot be excluded, as they have the chance to be contaminated with human viruses, including the virus causing COVID-19.


The funding for this study was supported by Sultan Qaboos University grand IG/AGR/CROP/20/02. We thank Dr. Rob W. Briddon who critically reviewed the letter.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest to declare.


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