Online Food delivery during the coronavirus pandemic: Follow these 3 rules to stay safe

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website. If you’re staying home more often as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, you might be wondering: Can I still order food or grocery delivery? And is it safe?

 

The answer, for now, is yes: Food and grocery delivery services such as Zomato, Swiggy, Bigbasket, DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Instacart are still up and running.

There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, according to the CDC and the FDA, though germs are known to live on surfaces up to nine days. The bigger potential issue is transmitting the new coronavirus from delivery person to customer, or vice versa, through coughing, vaporized air particles or other direct contact.

In response, many food delivery services are moving to contactless drop-offs, or encouraging customers to take advantage of drop-off instructions to minimize the chance of spreading the virus. Earlier in March, food delivery service Postmates introduced a feature called Dropoff Options, giving customers the ability to choose to either meet their delivery driver at the door, curbside, or go non-contact and have deliveries left at the door. Grocery delivery service Instacart launched a Leave at My Door Delivery option across the US.

Here are three tips for safely ordering food or grocery delivery, if you are sick, quarantined, or just staying in to try and stay healthy.

Leave delivery instructions

Whenever you order take-out or groceries online, you’ll see an empty field titled “delivery instructions.” Normally, you might use this to provide a gate code, but now, you can ask drivers to drop off food at the door, or send a photo of where the food should be left. Customers can often also contact their driver directly through the apps to make any delivery arrangements, as soon as the driver accepts the order.

You can keep up to date on what your preferred delivery app or service is doing to mitigate infection on their websites. For example, DoorDash is distributing hand sanitizer and gloves to drivers, and is working with restaurants to share some best practices for handling food at this time, like taping over ends of straws, a spokesperson said.

Grubhub provided drivers and restaurants with the CDC’s recommendations for best hygiene and appropriate precautions for interacting with others, a spokesperson told CNET. Uber Eats is also giving drivers car disinfectant, prioritizing “cities with the greatest need,” according to its website.

Immediately wash your hands

To play it safe, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your face after bringing your food or grocery delivery inside.

Restaurants and other food services are highly regulated by health officials, and have had protocols in place for years to avoid spreading influenza, norovirus, hepatitis A and other viruses.

“There is no evidence for COVID-19 being transmitted through food,” Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, as well as the former Baltimore Health Commissioner, told CNET. “However, the virus can live on instruments that people touch, including takeout containers and utensils. Therefore, people should wash our hands after we touch these items and before we eat or touch our faces.”

There are no rules in terms of how to remove food from takeout containers, but you’d probably be safest putting it on your own plate or container, throwing out the takeout container and washing your hands before eating.

Like other viruses, coronavirus can also survive on surfaces or objects, so it’s important to keep those clean. Recycle the bags that the food comes in, and disinfect your tables and counters before and after you eat.

You should also follow normal food safety procedures from the CDC, like refrigerating leftovers within two hours. It’s also best not to share utensils or cups with your fellow diners.

Overtip your driver. It’s the right thing to do

Food delivery drivers are typically either paid by the job (on gig platforms like DoorDash) or by the hour (at other restaurants). They don’t have a work from home option if they want to earn money. The safest way to tip your driver is through a food delivery app. If you tip with cash, make sure to wash your hands after you touch any bills. And if you have to sign a receipt to add a tip via credit card, use your own pen and again, wash those hands afterward.

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