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Takeout? Pick Up These COVID-19 Safety Tips First

March 30, 2020

Do not fear takeout food. It is safe to eat, says the Food and Drug Administration.

The COVID-19 risk, health officials say, is more likely food packaging and interaction with restaurant workers, fellow takeout customers or delivery people.

Let’s assess the risks:

The Takeout Food

Coronavirus spreads primarily through person-to-person contact, not food-to-person.

“There is currently little scientific information about the survival of COVID-19 on the surface of open food,” says the FDA.

A restaurant’s business, and reputation, depends on proper hygiene to avoid foodborne illness. Keep that in mind.

If you have any concerns about your takeout food:

  • Transfer the food from the takeout container to a plate when you get home.
  • Reheat the food.
  • Or transfer the food from the takeout container to one of your food-storage containers and either refrigerate it or freeze it. The temperature extremes would help kill any viral particles on the food.

The Takeout Food Packaging

The FDA says no evidence exists that coronavirus is transmitted from either food or food packaging. But studies, notably from the New England Journal of Medicine, have shown that the virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and even longer on other surfaces.

  • Do not place the takeout bag on a kitchen counter. Empty the bag in another room, or even outside the house. Throw the bag into your outdoor recycling receptacle, then wash your hands in warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not put the takeout containers in the refrigerator or on a countertop. Either consume or store the food in your own container.
  • Keep reminding yourself: Wash your hands!

Human Contact

Restaurant workers: Maintain social distancing, at least 6 feet from anyone else, as best you can. Wearing gloves is not a bad idea. (Remove them in the car — do not discard onto the parking lot surface! Then use hand sanitizer in your car.)

Do you have contactless payment like Apple Pay or Google Pay? Ask if your restaurant accepts any form of such payment. Then use it. A simple wave of the phone pays your bill. If you must use a credit card, carry it separately from your wallet. After payment, clean the card and your hands with sanitizer.

When you get home, wash your hands!

Delivery people: The delivery person wearing protective gloves might be well-intentioned, but the gloves likely will not prevent contamination. What if that person touches viral particles on a car door handle with a gloved hand? Touching the face with that gloved hand becomes a coronavirus infection risk.

Ask the food provider to leave the delivery package at your door.

Fellow takeout customers: No offense, but other people must stay at least 6 feet away. Human contact is the biggest COVID-19 risk. Viral particles expelled from a person’s mouth or nose can remain airborne for up to three hours, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But with the proper precautions, you should be able to enjoy takeout food safely, and support your local restaurants, during this pandemic.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

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