Is Food Delivery Or Take-Out Safe During The Coronavirus Outbreak?

As people continue social distancing in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak, many restaurants and fast-food chains have switched to a “to-go only” model. This means that they’re closing their dining rooms and only offering some combination of take-out, drive-thru, and delivery. But if you’re worried about contracting coronavirus, you might be wondering if ordering any sort of food is safe. Here’s what you need to know.

First off, to ease your mind a bit, the FDA’s current position is that “there is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19.” Furthermore, they went on to say that there is “no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.” As always, as long as the food is prepared safely, there isn’t a huge risk.

Essentially, your major risk of dining within a restaurant is touching a table, counter, or other surface that someone who is contagious may have touched. So ordering takeout and delivery is definitely a safer option that dining in.

Still, getting take-out likely isn’t quite as safe as preparing your own food at home, so there are some things that experts recommend that you take into account if you want to order food during the coronavirus outbreak.

Wash Your Hands

You’ve likely heard this a million times, but that’s because it’s pretty much the most important thing you can do. This means washing your hands before you go into a restaurant or receive your delivery AND washing your hands before you eat.

Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told The Atlantic that there could be a small risk of catching the virus from objects like take-out containers and bags but they’re not your number one concern.

“There can be transmission through contaminated inanimate objects, but we think the most important route of transmission is respiratory droplets,” he told them.

Still, you should wash your hands whenever you’re touching something someone else may have come in contact with. You should also always wash your hands before you eat, even if you made the food yourself.

Consider Contactless Delivery

More delivery companies are offering contactless delivery options, or ways you can get your food without coming face-to-face with someone else, such as leaving your delivery by the door. This cuts down the risk of coming into contact with respiratory droplets, like we mentioned in the previous point, and can keep you and your delivery driver safer too.

If you’re going to order carry-out by going into a restaurant, you should consider a cashless or mobile payment option so you cut down on contact there too.

You can learn more about your contactless delivery options here.

Man delivery pizza to customer

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Wipe Down Surfaces You Eat On

Be sure to keep some disinfectant on hand to keep your eating areas safe, especially if you’re placing take-out bags, clothing, and other things that may have come from outside world on them.

Consider What You’re Ordering

As Amy R. Sapkota, a professor of applied environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told Eater, now is probably not the time to be sharing any food, even with family members.

Using utensils can also help to cut down on contamination (but still, wash your hands!). You may also want to reconsider ordering raw foods from take-out as Morse said “cooked foods are unlikely to be a concern unless they get contaminated after cooking.”

Support Local Businesses

Yes, ordering take-out isn’t 100 percent fool-proof, but it’s an important factor in supporting the restaurants that you love in a time of crisis, as well as getting yourself a delicious meal. But delivery drivers are putting themselves in harm’s way by bringing food to tons of different people every day. They’re also often contract workers without benefits like health insurance, so they rely on tips. Factors like these can make ordering delivery a tricky ethical issue in times like these, but an important conversation nonetheless.

Tip more than you would normally. Exercise patience. Again, consider contactless delivery to keep them safe too.

Ordering take-out is also an important way that small businesses can stay afloat when they closed their doors to dine-in customers. Consider ordering more than you would normally and eating leftovers for a few days. This can give these businesses the help they need and cut down on delivery trips too.

If you’re going to order through a third-party delivery apps like Seamless and Uber Eats, be sure to read up on the changes they’re making to support small businesses so you can make an informed decision. Consider also calling the restaurants themselves and seeing if they do delivery on their own too.

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