The coronavirus crisis has left us with two food options: We can cook at home or we can order prepared takeout/delivery food.
But is the second option safe? What if the restaurant cook has the virus? Could it be passed on to us?
Professor Don Schaffner specializes in microbial risk assessment at Rutgers University. He ordered Thai takeout recently. And he intends to continue to do it throughout the pandemic.
Professor Schaffner says it’s safe to eat food prepared at restaurants “if you take the proper precautions.”
He agrees with the FDA that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through food—takeout or otherwise.
Dr. William Schaffner (no relation to Don) is a professor in the department of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. He says that although COVID-19 is new to us, “coronaviruses are not.” And after decades of studies, “there has never been any information to implicate food-borne transmission.”
Dr. Schaffner points out that COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets that infected people expel when they cough, sneeze, speak, or exhale.
If you’re standing within about six feet of the person, you might inhale these tiny droplets. You can also become infected by touching a surface with droplets and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Food doesn’t lend itself to these modes of transmission because you eat it, rather than inhale it.
Even if the virus ended up “say, in your salad, that would enter the body through the throat,” says Dr. Schaffner.
“The virus seems to be latching onto cells in the upper reaches of the nose, a place food doesn’t enter,” he said. “Virus that found its way into your gastrointestinal tract would be killed by the acid in your stomach.”
4 Steps for Safely Ordering Takeout Food During the Pandemic
Here’s a quick guide to making ordering out worry-free:
- If you’re picking up, order from establishments with a “drop-off” option. Many specialty food markets and restaurants now offer this. You order and pay by phone or online. Then, when you go to pick up your order, you leave the trunk of your car open. An employee puts your order in the trunk without ever getting close to you.
- If you’re getting delivery, ask to have your order left at your doorstep. Wait until the driver is at least six feet away before you open the door.
- Don’t eat the food directly from the restaurant containers. Instead, move it to your own plates and bowls. Then throw out the containers.
- Wipe down the countertop that came in contact with the takeout containers. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Now it’s time to eat.
Professor Paula Cannon recommends one more thing…
She is an expert in molecular biology and immunology. She suggests you order food for multiple meals at one time.
Think about what keeps well in the fridge or freezer. By bulking up, you limit your virus exposure and that of the delivery person, she said.
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