Ordering Takeout? Here's What To Know About Food Delivery

Apr 3, 2020
Originally published on April 3, 2020 1:37 pm

Restaurants across the country are closed to customers who want to dine in. But many are eager for hungry customers to order takeout or delivery to support their businesses.

People are obliging: Food delivery has doubled since the coronavirus outbreak, according to data from Yelp.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence associating food with the coronavirus. But is it safe to have food delivered to your house?

Yes, says Don Schaffner, a professor of food science at Rutgers University.

"In fact, it might even be safer to order takeout than to go to the restaurant and pick it up," he says, because it limits the contact you have with other people thus reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Many delivery services and apps are taking extra precautions by instructing drivers to practice social distancing on the job. Because delivery apps let you pay online, cash or credit cards are not being physically exchanged.

To limit contact with the driver, Schaffner says many drivers are "being instructed to simply leave the food on your porch and then alert you that it’s there."

Don't forget to tip, he says — whether you paid online or paid in person — because drivers are putting themselves on the line to deliver your food.

"They’re as worried about getting COVID-19 from you as probably you are from them," he says.

What should I do with my food delivery once it's in my house?

"Once you bring the food into the house, you can discard that outer packaging, either recycle that or throw that in the trash. And then again, just on the off chance that you maybe, perhaps have gotten the novel coronavirus on your hands, that’s a very good time to wash your hands or to use hand sanitizer.

"After you’ve handled the packaging and before you start eating, [wash your hands]. And guess what? Washing your hands before you sat down to eat — that was a good idea before the pandemic and it’s going to be a good idea after as well."

Can I share my food with a friend or roommate?

"If this is a person that you are living with, you’re already sharing germs with them just by simply being in the same physical space. If this is a friend who you don’t live with, well, you should be social distancing from them, so they shouldn’t even be there. But if it’s somebody that you already live with in your house, I don’t see any problem with sharing the takeout. Now, that equation changes if you have someone in your house who is sick. That individual really should be quarantined in the house. They should be eating separately from everybody else. But if everybody is healthy and no one is symptomatic, I see no problem with sharing a meal together."

Should I disinfect my credit card?

"What I’m recommending to people is do whatever makes you feel safe. If it makes you feel better and less anxious to do that. I’m recommending that people do that. ... The key message here is that most of the cases are spread by symptomatic people coughing or sneezing near people who then breathe in the virus. There’s evidence of asymptomatic spread. There’s still, at this point, not any evidence of spread through contacting surfaces like money or credit cards."

Do I have to sanitize my groceries?

"My recommendation is that you don’t need to sanitize your groceries. Again, a best practice is after you come into your house, it would be a really good time to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. After you’ve put your groceries away, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer one more time. And then thirdly, again, before you sit down to eat, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer."

Should I wear gloves when I go shopping?

"I don’t wear gloves when I go out shopping. What I do at my grocery store, they have hand sanitizer at the entrance. And so I will apply hand sanitizer when I walk into the store. When I leave the grocery store, I will again apply that same hand sanitizer from that same station. And that’s to basically remove any current virus or inactivate any coronavirus that I might have picked up in the store."


Marcelle Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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