Doctors explain coronavirus and navigating take out food orders

National and World

The risk of getting coronavirus from a hot or even cold meal is very low

(CNN Newsource) – People across the country and the globe are taking measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Avoiding crowds, working from home, frequent hand washing and ordering food in instead of eating out are all part of how we are getting through the social distancing mandates.

With most restaurants across the U.S. shuttered, many of us are turning to food takeout or delivery. But how safe is it?

“My message around takeout is go ahead and do it. It is really a safe alternative,” said Dr. Benjamin Chapman, food safety extension specialist, North Carolina State University.

Chapman says there’s no evidence that coronavirus is transmitted by food or food packaging.

“In general, eating food is low risk and there has not been any evidence to show that coronavirus is transmitted by eating food,” said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at Columbia University.

Although heat from cooking is more likely to kill off the coronavirus, Rasmussen says the risk of contracting COVID-19 through a hot or even a cold meal is extremely low.

“Coronaviruses, in general, are not stable at high temperatures, so it is highly likely that cooking food will inactivate the virus. Cold foods we don’t know how long the virus remains infectious on cold foods, however for things like produce that you would presumably wash prior to eating that should rinse off any virus,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen adds that if the virus is ingested, our stomach would actually get rid of the virus.

“When you eat any kind of food whether it be hot or cold that food is going to go straight down into your stomach where there is a high acidity, low P-H environment that also will inactivate the virus,” she said.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta says if you order from a restaurant, there are some precautions you should take.

 “Try to take out some of the packaging actually on the porch even and leave it out, and then when we come in we sort of wipe any of the surfaces in the remaining packaging and then obviously wash our hands. I mean, again, keeping in mind that it’s hand touching and then hands to face. So that’s sort of how we’ve approached it, and it seems to have worked. I feel pretty good about it,” Gupta said.

Dr. Celine Gounder, clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious disease at NYU Bellevue agrees that it’s human interaction, not interaction with food, that poses the greatest risk.

“I think the highest risk moment in getting food delivered to you is actually the face to face interaction if you have one with the delivery person. So, ideally, you would be able to pay them online or whatever platform you’re using for ordering food and then have them leave it outside your door, wait till they leave, and then get the food,” Gounder said.

If you prefer to head to the grocery store to throw together a homemade meal, wiping the products down and washing your hands are key.

“I would suggest wiping down external surfaces of canned or wrapped foods. You should be washing your fruits and vegetables, produce anyway. Soap and water is just fine for that, but again I think making sure you sanitize your hands, wash your hands after you unpack your groceries is also a key step here,” Gounder said.

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