Here’s how you can best avoid health risks and support your favorite local eateries.
First, the good news: The virus is not likely to be transmitted by the food itself, said Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which investigates foodborne and waterborne illnesses.
“There is no evidence out there that, so far with [Covid-19], that its foodborne-driven or food service-driven,” Williams said in an information webinar. “This really is respiratory, person-to-person. At this point, there is no evidence really pointing us towards food [or] food service as ways that are driving the epidemic.”
At least that’s what we know right now, and experts have said they will continue to evaluate the virus.
But is it actually safe to have someone deliver your food to you?
Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.“
Here are a few tips for providing peace of mind if you’re worried about your food delivery, or your delivery person, exposing you to coronavirus.
1. Order from restaurants you trust
As a general rule, stick with restaurants you know and like. If you’ve ever gotten sick at a place before, or didn’t feel comfortable in the dining room, there’s no need to push it when it comes to delivery.
We advise you to call up any restaurant you plan on ordering from and asking specific questions about what they’re doing to deter the spread of coronavirus at all stages of the cooking and handling process.
2. Opt for contactless delivery
When your order arrives, ask the rider to “place the order outside your door and then disinfect the area.” Avoid tipping with cash (as virus-causing germs can linger on paper), and opt for tipping through the app.
Before you start eating, examine the individual containers thoroughly to make sure nothing appears as if it’s been opened or tampered with. You may also wipe down packaging with a sanitizing wipe. After unpacking your food and handling the packaging, wash your hands thoroughly before digging in.
3. Make sure your food is fresh
Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Indiana’s Ball State University who has studied the impact of viral outbreaks like SARS, said it’s important to pay extra attention to how fresh your food is.
“If I go order fries and they made them two hours ago and they have been staying at room temperature, then it’s dangerous to eat them,” he said. “When food is at room temperature, then you cannot trust that food,” he explained because bacteria grows most rapidly between those temperatures.
4. Get rid of the packaging ASAP
You should toss the packaging your food comes in, especially if it’s plastic. While the hope is that workers are wearing gloves and not coughing or sneezing anywhere near the food they’re packing, there’s no guarantee. Store any leftovers in clean Tupperware or glass containers you own.
5. Refrain from sharing
In general, it’s wise not to share drinks or utensils. Particularly in this current situation, it would be wise not to share food. If you need to split a shared takeout order, divide up the food onto separate plates before eating with your own utensils.
6. Support restaurants, staff, and gig workers in other ways
Restaurants are facing a huge loss in business, and with it, the ability to keep staff employed. If you’d like to help your favorite restaurant weather this storm, you can buy restaurant gift cards or merchandise like shirts and cookbooks to help free up cash flow at this critical time.