Is ordering takeout food safe during quarantine?

  • Packaging almost certainly doesn’t carry the virus
  • There is no evidence of coronavirus transmission directly through food
  • Always wash hands and surfaces thoroughly

Can food be contaminated with COVID-19?

According to both the CDC and the FDA, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food. Furthermore, early evidence has suggested that the virus is inactivated by heat. So while cooked foods should be completely safe, there may be a slight risk when ordering something cold—such as salads or sushi—if an infected restaurant worker sneezes or coughs on it. However, as long as the food is properly handled, any danger of exposure should be minimal.

Additionally, many kitchens have adapted to the pandemic by requiring cooks to wear gloves while handling food and by routinely checking employees for fevers and other symptoms of the virus.

Wash your hands and throw away takeout containers

Though your food itself may be safe, the coronavirus originally was thought to survive for a day on cardboard and up to three days on some plastics. But transmission through a surface has been debunked. Current recommendations advise to keep sanitizing chemicals away from food and food packaging, but to thoroughly wash hands after handling it. You may also want to take extra precautions and store any uneaten food in your own glass or Tupperware. It also goes without saying that you should be washing your hands before and after eating, regardless of where the food came from.

Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center, encourages customers to 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,” she said.

Contactless pickup and delivery

To minimize the risk to both customers and food service employees, many restaurants are now offering contactless delivery and curbside pickup. Those using delivery apps such as Postmates, GrubHub, UberEats, and others might have even noticed that no-contact delivery is now an option during checkout.

Food delivery couriers are at the highest risk of contracting the virus, as they are coming in contact with the greatest number of people on a daily basis—particularly those making deliveries to quarantined families who have tested positive for COVID-19. Though it may seem a bit impersonal to request that your food is left at the door, doing so can minimize the risk to yourself and your driver.

Sources: CDC, FDA, Guardian, Today, CNET, NY Times, ABC News

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