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How to avoid coronavirus while ordering food for delivery

Published Mar 26th, 2020 6:05PM EDT
Coronavirus food delivery
Image: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

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  • Restaurants all around the United States are closed to customers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Many of those restaurants are offering pickup and delivery to survive, and while some people might be concerned about catching the coronavirus from their food, data suggests this is unlikely.
  • If you want to be extra careful, there are steps you can take to make your food deliveries even safer.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Living in New York City, I order out far more often than I would in maybe any other city in the entire country. Over 200 restaurants will deliver food right to my front door, and so when the entire city shut down due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, I wanted to do my part to help support the establishments that I love in my neighborhood. But after reading reports about the virus living for hours or even days on certain surfaces, I was concerned that I might put myself at risk (and thus anyone else I come in contact with) by bringing food delivery into my apartment.

You can imagine my relief when I read the guide to coronavirus food safety on Serious Eats, which explains that of all the hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases to date, there is no evidence that the disease has ever spread through food or food packaging. But if you want to be extra careful, there are steps you can take.

As food safety specialist Ben Chapman explained to Serious Eats, even a food worker coughing or sneezing on your food is unlikely to get you sick. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus and thus reproduces along your respiratory tract. If you bite into a hamburger, it goes down your digestive tract. Furthermore, in the process of making, packing, and shipping your food, the viral load (providing there is any) will be diluted several times. In other words, while it’s theoretically possible, Chapman calls the chances of picking up the disease this way “a moonshot.”

If you have read all of this and are still looking to take every possible precaution to avoid becoming infected, which is not a terrible idea considering how little we actually know about the virus, here are some steps that you could take in order to minimize the already minimal risk associated with ordering food delivery:

  • Transfer the food from the container it came in to a clean container or dish and wash your hands.
  • Use clean silverware and wash your hands again before touching your face when you’re done eating.
  • Studies suggest that heating your food to 149°F for at least 3 minutes is sufficient to kill coronavirus.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to be overly cautious, especially as infection rates around the United States (and especially in New York) are spiking, but even with the relatively small amount of data we have regarding the virus, it seems highly unlikely, if not impossible, that you will get infected from your delivered food.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.