FALSE: Onions will keep you 'free from all viruses,' including coronavirus

Claim: A claim on Facebook that began to circulate around Wednesday, March 25, says that putting a peeled onion in any room can remove "all viruses and bacteria including coronavirus."

The claim says that a family in China wasn't affected by the coronavirus outbreak because they placed peeled onions in a bowl in every room in their house.

It goes on to say that a doctor studied the onions and found that they were "full of viruses and germs that were already inactive."

It said, "The onion turns out to suck the virus and germs then focus it into the intra-cell, then digest it in the vacuole and kill it.

"Not only viruses, but also bacteria, germs, all of them are collected there when they are inactive or dead," it added.

The same doctor supposedly placed a bowl of peeled onions in the room of a pneumonia patient as an experiment and found that the patient got better faster.

The exact same claim has been posted by at least 26 users and pages from March 25 to 27. These have been shared at least 17,888 times as of posting.

Rating: FALSE

The facts: Putting peeled onions in a room will not prevent COVID-19 or a coronavirus infection, according to the National Onion Association (NOA) in the US. There are no official cures or vaccines for COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as of Tuesday, March 31, though there are cures and vaccines in testing. (READ: What you need to know: Coronavirus cures, vaccines being tested)

NOA said that the myth that a raw cut onion can prevent the flu has existed since the 1500s, when it was said to prevent the bubonic plague. The claim has persisted over the years, with raw cut onions having been said to ward off smallpox, influenza, and other infectious diseases.

However, the group said, "There is no scientific evidence that a cut raw onion absorbs germs or rids the air of toxins/poisons."

Irwin Goldman, a professor at the Department of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also said in a statement for NOA: "There is some evidence that the compounds found in onion may have anti-viral properties, and there are some published scientific studies that demonstrate some protective effects of onion compounds on the influenza virus. Nothing is yet known on whether the compounds found in onion would have protective or inhibitory effects on COVID-19."

The NOA is the official organization representing growers, shippers, brokers, and commercial representatives of the US onion industry.

The WHO has not debunked this particular claim, but has previously said that garlic will not prevent coronavirus infection, saying: "Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus."

Rappler has also debunked a number of claims, listed below, that say certain food or home remedies can prevent COVID-19. – Vernise L Tantuco/Rappler

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time

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