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Tips for Safely Ordering Takeout During the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

Officials at the FDA say there’s no known risk that COVID-19 transmits through food, but experts clarify how you can still make delivery much safer.
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Excerpts from GoodHousekeeping.com

Whether you’re already practicing social distancing or have put yourself into self-quarantine due to the outbreak, it’s clear that you should have groceries and other essentials delivered to you if possible. But with experts sharing in a new article published in The New England Journal of Medicine that the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces anywhere from hours to multiple days, is eating food that we haven’t prepared is actually safe. 

The short (and good!) answer: Yes. 

With many non-essential businesses closed, many restaurants have transitioned to delivery only. According to experts, eating your favorite meals in the comfort of your own home shouldn’t put you at an elevated risk.

Currently, experts at the FDA say there is no hard evidence “to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.” 

While experts continue to discover new facts about the coronavirus, the FDA maintains that there’s little scientific proof to suggest that people have been getting sick after eating a meal. 

Rather, most of the reported cases have been traced back to more direct exposure between humans. The FDA stated, “foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”

Donald Schaffner, Ph.D., a food science extension specialist and a professor at Rutgers University’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, confirms that experts such as himself aren’t aware of any evidence suggesting the disease can be spread through eating contaminated food. 

 

 

“The overwhelming risk comes from being in close proximity to an infected person, especially if they sneeze or cough,” he explains. 

This is why it’s super important to wash your hands before handling any food, regardless if it came from a restaurant or your own kitchen — there’s more plausibility that you could contaminate your meal with germs that weren’t even in the kitchen to begin with.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your deliveries are as safe as possible, from advice published by the CDC  as well as the FDA.

It’s best to avoid direct contact with delivery personnel. Many delivery services have already rolled out new features to make the delivery process much safer, with clear options for “contactless” delivery. 

If you’re calling a local restaurant to arrange delivery, ask them up front to keep your delivery contactless if possible, simply allowing the courier to leave your meal on your doorstep. You can leave a tip for service within your delivery app, or place some cash in an envelope.

The bag the food is delivered in should be your concern, since the coronavirus can reportedly survive for 24 hours on paper or cardboard, as well as 72 hours on plastic. 

Here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of coming into contact with germs:

Place the delivery bag in your sink. Don’t let it sit directly on other counter spaces in your kitchen or in the home. You can sanitize or disinfect your sink after the meal is over, and after you’ve thrown the delivery bag into the trash.

Plate your food, or transfer it to another clean container in your kitchen. Be sure to avoid touching the food directly; use a clean utensil instead. Don’t put any plastic, paper, or cardboard containers in your cupboard or your fridge, as it’s unclear if cold temperatures can neutralize the virus currently.

Wash your hands! You’ll need to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before you sit down to eat your meal. At some point, you should also wipe down your sink with a disinfecting wipe.

A note on dishes that are served raw or at room temperature: Schaffner says he is not worried about the role that temperature plays when it comes to ordering food. “There is no data on the effect of heating or cooking on virus survival,” he says. “We do have data from the related SARS-CoV-1 virus, which shows the virus is as easily inactivated as many other food borne pathogens.” He also adds that many restaurants are already taking steps to keep their food from causing any other health issues, including Salmonella poisoning or E. coli exposure, and that you shouldn’t solely order (or not order) items based on how they were cooked.

Tips for picking food up at a takeout window or drive-thru:

Businesses are trying their best to keep the need for human interaction at a minimum, so you shouldn’t worry too much about quickly grabbing a packed meal. Schaffner again stresses taking a few precautions to minimizing your direct contact with the packaging itself.

Try to maintain as much distance as you can between yourself and anyone else. This includes the personnel working the takeout window, or any customers waiting in line. Experts at Johns Hopkins University suggest a distance of at least six feet if possible to best reduce any risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Wear gloves. Since you won’t be able to wash your hands immediately, wearing gloves is a good way to avoid touching contaminated surfaces while you are outside. If you are in a car, placing your order on the floor (or a surface that no one will directly touch) is best. If you’re not equipped with gloves, you can use hand sanitizer to hold you over until you reach a sink.

Use contactless payment if possible. Some debit or credit cards come equipped with capabilities that make it easy to “tap” to pay at a terminal, and services like Apple Pay or Google Pay allow you to simply wave your phone to pay your bill. This allows you to avoid having to hand over a physical credit or debit card, which is susceptible to germs. If you have exact cash, lay it on the takeout counter or pass it in a manner that allows you to avoid touching hands directly.

Wash your hands! Do this when you get home, and follow the same set of instructions about properly disposing of takeout materials. It’s tedious, yes, but it’s these kinds of measured extra steps that will help keep your whole family safe.

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2 Responses to Tips for Safely Ordering Takeout During the Coronavirus Pandemic

  1. Big Yellow House Reply

    April 2, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    City or local chamber of commerce need to publish list of takeouts in Cerritos and the 9 surrounding cities, so residents can patronize these restaurants. For most part, restaurants seem to be closed.

    Last weeks LCCN had a list, but nothing in Cerritos.

  2. Senior Box Dinners Reply

    April 2, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Cerritos Senior Center .

    Cerritos residents 50 years and older, can register for 7 Day plan, takeout dinners at the senior center. Curbside Delivery is on Tuesday and Wednesday, from 11 to noon. Cost is $2.25 per frozen dinner.

    Free curbside delivery, staffers at the center will put the Box Dinners in the trunk of your car, Frozen and you can bring them home and put them in the freezer and reheat them in your oven accordingly. Does include dinner, fruit and beverage.

    This is a program to keep seniors at home. This is not a steak and lobster dinner, BUT beats getting sick with the virus and being sent to the hospital or dying. Residents will not be in contact with any staff at the city Senior Center, everything is done via boxed in to the trunk of your car.

    Some much needed toilet paper will be added.

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