In most places, food and delivery are still the most affordable and convenient option for those who prefer not to cook during the coronavirus pandemic. But many questions remain about the risks of these methods. Here are some responses from experts in food safety and public health.
What is safer: take-out or delivery food?
"There is very little evidence of transmission by surfaces. There is no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food," said Donald Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science at Rutgers University. "So the safest choice will be to avoid contact with most people."
Both food and food have a lower risk than eating out, because you are not around other people for long periods of time.
Delivery, however, is a little bit safer because of contactless delivery, which allows workers to leave food at their doorstep, said Ben Chapman, a professor and food security expert at North Carolina State University. Since ordering and payment are made electronically, customers and workers never have to touch.
If the restaurant you are buying from does not offer delivery, food is still a relatively safe option. But the proximity of other customers, waiting for the food, can pose a danger.
"If you follow all these steps to remove the sushi from the package and wash your hands, make sure you don't go to the location" in "which has 20 people crowded in the lobby to collect it," said Elizabeth Carlton , assistant professor of environmental health at the Colorado School of Public Health.
Ask the restaurant staff to put the food down and leave before picking it up. Stay away from other customers. And if you choose takeout or delivery, pay in advance. You can do this electronically, which will keep you and the team more secure.
What is the risk of packaging?
Good news: The packaging has a low risk. Although the CD says that surfaces contaminated with droplets of the virus can infect people, agency notes "this is not the main means of spreading the virus".
Even if an infected person touches a package, the risk of transmission is small, said John Williams, head of pediatric diseases at UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh. "That person would have to contaminate their own hands (for example, wipe their nose), touch and contaminate the packaging, and then we would have to touch the packaging in the same location and rub the nose or eyes," Dr. Williams wrote in an email .
The virus would have to live in the packaging as it was transported from the restaurant to your home. The risk of getting there is "surprisingly low," said Paula Cannon, professor of immunology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.
"People want me to say: & # 39; Yes, if you take the food to go in your house, put it on the wooden floor, decontaminate it with 10% bleach, leave it for 40 minutes & # 39 ; & # 39; she said, instead she suggested that people save their handkerchiefs and bleach in case a family member fell ill.
Still, if you are nervous, clean the packaging with a disinfectant and recycle the bags. Wash your hands and transfer the food to a plate.
And the utensils?
Much takeaway food comes with disposable utensils. But you probably won't need them if you're eating in your own home.
"This is another point of contact where someone's hands can be," said Chapman. "If I can eliminate this as much as possible, I am taking a very, very low risk even lower."
What should I order?
Since the virus is not believed to be transmitted by food, you can order anything you want – sushi, pizza, salads.
"The risk is in interacting with people, not with the type of food," wrote Olga Padilla-Zakour, director of the Cornell Food Entrepreneurship Center at Cornell University, in an email. "There is no difference," she added, between raw and cooked foods.
If you are still worried, heat the food. Heat kills most pathogens. Coronavirus thrives in wet conditions and heat dries out moisture. "And if you have 1% extreme concerns, order pizza and beat in the oven at 400 degrees," said Cannon.
But cold foods or raw ingredients, like sushi, are just as safe. "I wouldn't say that sushi is more risky than a hamburger or fresh produce that I buy at the supermarket," said Chapman. "Food is simply not something we are seeing as a route of transmission."
What should I worry about, then?
Worry about the worker safety. People get sick from contact with other people. So when you ask, call the restaurant and ask specific questions about how workers are protected. At the very least, ask if they are wearing personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.
But you should also ask how workers are paid, said Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Ask if they are receiving sick pay so they don't have to work if they are sick.
Many restaurant employees are paid "below the minimum wage", just a few dollars an hour, assuming the rest of their income is covered by tips. Jayaraman said that during the pandemic, restaurant tips fell by almost 80%.
Then ask if employees are receiving a minimum wage, Jayaraman said. (And remember to tip.) You want to make sure they can afford to be sick. "This is a time when consumers have tremendous power to really influence the treatment of workers, because health and safety are at the top of everyone's mind," she said.
Just asking these questions can keep you and your workers safer. You will be a more informed sponsor and help employees indirectly by informing managers that their safety is important to you.