CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's a common practice in American culture- a customer scrolls through the produce aisle looking for the best apple, onion or pepper. But now with the coronavirus spreading at an alarming pace, some are worried about who else touched their food before they bought it. Furhtermore, people are wondering how to wash it in order to protect temselves and their families.

Dr. Melina Forthofer is the chair of UNC’s Department of Public Health Services. She explained there has been some misinformation about whether to use soap when washing produce. She recommends against it.

“Soaps and bleaches are not intended to be ingested by humans,” Forthofer said. “So while those methods might kill the virus, they might carry with them more risk or dangers then was there in the first place."

We also asked Dr. Forthofer if people should use vegetable washers.

“Most experts would say those are a waste of money,” Dr. Forthofer said. “When people try to make vegetable washes using cleaning products, many cleaning products have stabilizing ingredients that are actually hazardous if ingested.”

So what can you do? Dr. Forthofer said since the coronavirus is spread by droplets after someone sneezes, coughs, or touches food, it’s best to buy produce that is packaged. She said it’s okay to wipe down food containers such as cans or cardboard with disinfectant, but she suggests another option. She said to remember the coronavirus only lives on surfaces for up to three days, so the longer food sits in the cupboard untouched the safer it is.

“If people can bring groceries into their home and wait to eat them for a couple of days, just by doing that alone they are reducing their risk tremendously,” Forthofer said.

Forthofer said it’s important to limit the number of trips to the grocery store as much as possible.

“Every time we go out there is the risk that we come in contact with the virus and are touching our eyes, nose or face,” Forthofer said. “That is really where the greatest risk lies.”

The FDA reminds people the coronavirus is not transported by contaminated food, but rather respiratory droplets that could get on the food if someone sneezes or coughs.