The option of ordering takeout from a restaurant has become more attractive now that eateries everywhere have closed their doors to patrons.
But is it safe to order food to go? Or does it raise your risk of being infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus?
As we recently reported, the coronavirus can live a relatively long time — even days — on some surfaces and packaging.
However, your risk of contracting COVID-19 via food delivery is low, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It states:
“Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.”
State and local regulations — not federal law — govern restaurants and retail food establishments, the FDA says. Still, these organizations typically use the FDA’s Food Code when establishing their rules.
So, as a general rule, you should be safe ordering takeout. But that does not mean the risk is zero.
For example, the coronavirus has been detected in the stool of some people, according to Harvard Medical School. That means someone who prepares food without washing his or her hands could possibly transmit the virus.
The risk is probably highest with uncooked foods such as salads or sandwiches, Harvard notes. Cooking hot foods likely kills the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reminds you that ordering takeout can be dangerous for other reasons if you are not careful.
The CDC notes that if food is not kept at the proper temperature prior to delivery, it can grow germs that might make you sick.
Some people are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning in such situations. They include:
- Adults 65 and older
- Children younger than age 5
- People with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
So, before ordering from any kind of food delivery service, the CDC recommends you do the following:
“Ask how the company responds if food is delivered at an unsafe temperature or is otherwise not safe to eat. Find out if the company provides information with each shipment on safe handling and preparation of food, including cooking temperatures.”
You can find more tips on how to order food safely at the CDC website.
The bottom line: Although there is no evidence that COVID-19 infection has been transmitted through food or food packaging, some small risk may be present.
The biggest risk associated with eating, however, is not washing your own hands before taking that first bite. For tips on keeping your hands germ-free, check out “Beware These 7 Hand-Washing Mistakes.”