Coronavirus: Is it safe to get food delivered?

Coronavirus has temporarily obliterated many of life’s simple pleasures, but we can still ‘eat out’ from the comfort of home – so how can you do it safely?

In an effort to stay afloat during coronavirus lockdowns, many restaurants and cafes are offering home deliveries for food and produce.

But what steps can you put in place to ensure food deliveries are as safe as possible?

Can you catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging?

There is no evidence that food or packaging is associated with COVID-19 transmission.

But studies have found the virus can stay on some surfaces for hours or even days, so good hygiene is essential.

Nobel Prize-winning immunologist Prof Peter Doherty says it is believed coronavirus can live on cardboard and paper up to 24 hours.

“I don’t think that’s likely to be a major source of infection, but it’s something you just might keep in mind when you are taking hold of the pizza box,” Prof Doherty told the Australia Academy of Science recently.

“Open the pizza box and then before you take the food out, wash your hands,” says Prof Doherty.

The virus is believed to survive on plastic for up to nine days, says Prof Doherty.

So make sure you wash hands well and avoid touching your face, which is a major source of virus transmission.

How to safely handle food deliveries

Firstly, aim to reduce contact with the delivery person.

Pay by card when you place your order, and ask the outlet to leave the order at your front door instead of handing it over personally.

But don’t leave delivered food at the door for extended periods of time, advises Food Safety Information Council spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann.

Once you have taken your delivery inside, avoid placing it on any food preparation areas.

Prof Doherty advises opening the delivery package, then washing your hands before and after you take the food out.

Transfer food to a new plastic bag or reusable container if you are putting it into the fridge.

Dispose of the packaging that came with the delivery, and wash your hands again afterwards.

Move the food to your own plates, and use your own cutlery.

Practise safe food handling measures

Lydia says food safety measures are crucial to both prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to reduce the risk of food poisoning during the pandemic.

“People don’t realise that millions of Australians get food poisoning every year and it puts an enormous strain on hospitals and medical services – so when you combine that with COVID-19, it could overwhelm our healthcare system,” she says.

Lydia’s top food handling tips

  • Wash fresh produce right before cooking. If you wash them and then put them in the fridge, there’s a risk of mould developing.
  • Don’t wash food with hand sanitiser – water is fine.
  • Put your most fresh pantry items at the back and the foods approaching expiry at the front to avoid consuming foods past their use-by date.
  • Don’t cook or consume risky foods such as raw eggs.
  • If someone in your household is displaying symptoms of illness, they shouldn’t be preparing food.
  • Invest in a meat thermometer and fridge thermometer, which can greatly reduce risk of undercooking foods.
  • Wash hands before handling and after food. Every time you wash your hands, you should be using water and soap and the washing and drying processes should take a minimum of 20 seconds each.
  • Don’t buy food off Facebook Marketplace or other businesses that lack food regulation; you have no idea where it’s been.

More coronavirus advice:

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.