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How to safely order takeout during the coronavirus outbreak

How to safely order takeout during the coronavirus outbreak
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How to safely order takeout during the coronavirus outbreak
Leading experts at the FDA say there are no known risks or evidence that suggests that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.The more apparent risk with food delivery and takeout is face-to-face contact with couriers or restaurant staff. There are a few ways you can reduce this risk and still safely enjoy your favorite meals.Whether you're already practicing social distancing or have put yourself into self-quarantine due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus across the United States, 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, we can't help but wonder if eating food that we haven't prepared is actually safe. The short (and good) answer: Yes. With many nonessential businesses closed for the indefinite future, many restaurants have transitioned to delivery only. Wondering if you can support local eateries by ordering takeout? You can rest easy knowing that eating your favorite meals in the comfort of your own home shouldn't put you at an elevated risk.Currently, experts at the Food and Drug Administration 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 novel coronavirus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, that causes humans to develop COVID-19, 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. “Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness," the agency's website reads. "Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission."Donald Schaffner, 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 explained. "We also suspect the disease can be transmitted by cross-contamination, i.e. someone sneezes on a surface, you touch that surface with your finger, and then you stick your finger in your nose, and now the virus is in your nose where it can begin to infect you." Schaffner explains that there's very little data on the survival rate of SARS-CoV-2 in food, and as viruses such as this one are not alive, they gradually become inactive when they're outside their host and less able to cause infection. 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the FDA.How to safely order deliveryFor safety purposes, 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, front porch or within your building's lobby. You can leave a tip for service within your delivery app or place some cash in an envelope wedged in your doorframe or on a doormat if possible.The bag the food is delivered in should be your concern, since the virus that causes COVID-19 can reportedly survive for 24 hours on paper or cardboard, as well as 72 hours on plastic. So it's best to assume the worst when handling packaging, even though Schaffner says the risk of transmission this way is quite low. 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 or recycling, along with any containers.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. Tips for picking food up at a takeout windowBusinesses 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 and any customers waiting in line. Experts at Johns Hopkins University suggest a distance of at least 6 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.
  • Leading experts at the FDA say there are no known risks or evidence that suggests that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.
  • The more apparent risk with food delivery and takeout is face-to-face contact with couriers or restaurant staff.
  • There are a few ways you can reduce this risk and still safely enjoy your favorite meals.

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Whether you're already practicing social distancing or have put yourself into self-quarantine due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus across the United States, 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, we can't help but wonder if eating food that we haven't prepared is actually safe.

The short (and good) answer: Yes.

With many nonessential businesses closed for the indefinite future, many restaurants have transitioned to delivery only. Wondering if you can support local eateries by ordering takeout? You can rest easy knowing that eating your favorite meals in the comfort of your own home shouldn't put you at an elevated risk.

Currently, experts at the Food and Drug Administration 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 novel coronavirus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, that causes humans to develop COVID-19, 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.

“Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness," the agency's website reads. "Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission."

Donald Schaffner, 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 explained. "We also suspect the disease can be transmitted by cross-contamination, i.e. someone sneezes on a surface, you touch that surface with your finger, and then you stick your finger in your nose, and now the virus is in your nose where it can begin to infect you."

Schaffner explains that there's very little data on the survival rate of SARS-CoV-2 in food, and as viruses such as this one are not alive, they gradually become inactive when they're outside their host and less able to cause infection. 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the FDA.

How to safely order delivery

For safety purposes, 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, front porch or within your building's lobby. You can leave a tip for service within your delivery app or place some cash in an envelope wedged in your doorframe or on a doormat if possible.

The bag the food is delivered in should be your concern, since the virus that causes COVID-19 can reportedly survive for 24 hours on paper or cardboard, as well as 72 hours on plastic. So it's best to assume the worst when handling packaging, even though Schaffner says the risk of transmission this way is quite low. Here's what you can do to minimize the risk of coming into contact with germs:

  1. 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 or recycling, along with any containers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Tips for picking food up at a takeout window

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.

  1. Try to maintain as much distance as you can between yourself and anyone else. This includes the personnel working the takeout window and any customers waiting in line. Experts at Johns Hopkins University suggest a distance of at least 6 feet if possible to best reduce any risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.