Experts Give Delivery The Okay
Social distancing measures put into place to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the US have meant restaurants and bars across the country have closed their doors. But some remain open under takeout or delivery only.
There’s been a spike in food delivery, even though many people wonder if it’s safe.
But luckily, nothing indicating that eating takeout during the outbreak is unsafe has appeared, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In a statement, the FDA said, “there is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19.”
NPR asked several experts in infectious disease and food safety, who agreed with the FDA based on evidence gathered from past coronavirus outbreaks.
Dr. William Shaffner is a professor of medicine. He works at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and is a member of the department of infectious diseases. He told NPR, “While COVID-19 is new to us, coronaviruses are not, and with all the studies done on these viruses, there has never been any information to implicate food-borne transmission.”
Schaffner and other health experts assure Americans that it’s highly unlikely they can become infected from eating food that they order. That’s because the virus moves through respiratory droplets emitted from coughing or sneezing that are inhaled.
Shaffner says that in “the unlikely scenario of virus…coming into contact with…a salad, that would enter the body through the throat.”
He clarifies that the virus becomes a threat when it enters the respiratory tract, not when consumed with food. “The virus seems to be latching onto cells in the upper reaches of the nose, a place food doesn’t enter. Virus that found its way into your gastrointestinal tract would be killed by the acid in your stomach.”
The WHO supports this research, but is also looking for any potential cases.
Even if it is safe to eat takeout, those with underlying conditions or with compromised immune systems should still think about ordering food that has been cooked, as opposed to products like sandwiches, which are uncooked. That’s because, in the event of contamination, there’s a better chance that the virus will die during cooking.
Elizabeth Mills is a registered dietician at the Villanova University College of Nursing. Regarding the safety of cooked versus uncooked food, she says, “There’s much we don’t know about the survivability of the virus on surfaces, including food,” she says. “But what we do know is that the coronavirus is a strand of RNA surrounded by a protein shell. Protein is denatured, or loses its biologic function when exposed to cooking.”
Do Your Part To Lower Another’s Risk
Americans should consider that while health experts and organizations say that delivery or takeout is safe, ordering out means increasing a worker’s risk of exposure, according to Arthur Caplan, the director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
Caplan recommends that if you do order food, do your part to lower the risk for those making your food. Choose curbside pickup if possible, or wait for the delivery driver to leave your order before picking it up outside. The key is practicing social distancing however much you can.
- Kritz, Fran. “How Safe Is It To Eat Takeout?” NPR, NPR, 8 Apr. 2020, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/08/822903487/how-safe-is-it-to-eat-take-out.