This story is developing.
For folks isolating or under quarantine, ordering takeout is a welcome respite from preparing every meal and a chance to support a local business that probably really needs it right now. The question is: is eating restaurant food safe while the coronavirus spreads around the country and world safe?
The short answer: Probably!
“There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by eating food. I imagine that if this is possible, the risk is extremely low,” said Angela L. Rasmussen, PhD, a virologist in the faculty of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health told Forbes. The U.S. FDA seconds this. It also helps to note that similar viruses like the flu and SARS aren’t spread via food.
So if the delivery guy sneezes in your face, you should be worried, but what if he or a co-worker or another customer does so on your actual food? It might actually be ok. Coronaviruses need a living host and cannot grow on food, but they can survive on surfaces.
Inhaling your food is just a figure of speech in the end. It’s thus very unlikely that it makes it into your respiratory system. And if it gets to your digestive system you probably won’t get sick because your digestive system is likely to break it down, rendering it harmless.
There’s marginally more risk if the virus makes it onto a non-porous surface like a plastic bag or container, but there’s still a minuscule chance that you would be infected through those means. Disinfecting food containers the same way you should be disinfecting everything that comes into your home — including groceries you buy to prepare yourself — does much to ameliorate this already likely negligible risk.
The best thing to do is to take the precautions that you always should before eating, including washing your hands before preparing and eating food. If you’re worried, you can also switch takeout food to a clean container from your pantry before eating.
Nuking the food in the microwave isn’t going to help, according to the North Carolina State University resource. There is no evidence that heat kills the virus. On that note, it’s just as safe to order cold food or raw vegetables in a salad than something cooked through.
Major food delivery apps have introduced options that instruct the delivery person to leave the food by the door, mitigating the risk of person-to-person transmission that actually infects people. If you order over the phone, you can and should request the same option.
And remember, restaurant workers who are still working are putting themselves at greater risk than those with the luxury of staying at home and ordering takeout, so tipping even more generously than normal is a must.