4 Coronavirus Myths People Are Spreading On Ordering Food For Delivery

A public health expert explains the truth about COVID-19 and to-go food.


Paul Kita |

Now that we can order food for delivery it’s brought with it its own set of anxieties. Ordering delivery food during the coronavirus COVID-19 can feel like criminal activity. There’s a sense of trepidation involved, nerves are high, and everyone is wearing masks. We’re just trying to put food on the table, you think.

Related: 11 Questions About The Coronavirus And Your Mental Health, Answered By A Psychologist

Except that much of the fear of picking up and taking out restaurant meals during the pandemic is overblown, at least according to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

All this panic may come, in part, from Internet videos fanning the flames of fear. Some of these coronavirus myths as they pertain to takeout and delivery:

  • Food packaging may carry the disease.
  • Cold foods are more likely to carry the disease than hot foods.
  • For that reason, it’s a good idea to reheat food before you eat them.
  • Or, better yet, not order at all.

To determine whether or not these statements—and others made online about ordering food during COVID-19—are true, we turned to Dr Chrysan Cronin,  a professor of public health at Muhlenberg College. She teaches Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Occupational and Environmental Health.

Related: 4 Myths About Grocery Shopping During The Coronavirus

Is it true that the wrappers/packaging around food delivery items may carry the coronavirus COVID-19?

Cronin: “I want to emphasize that to date there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread by food or food wrappers.”

The CDC and the WHO have all said that food is not known to be a route of transmission for coronaviruses.

“It is highly unlikely that a respiratory droplet from an infected person will make its way onto your food or your food wrappers when [proper food safety] guidelines are followed,” Cronin says. “In the unlikely event that the virus does make it onto your food, it cannot multiply there like bacteria can.”

This means that the number of virus particles that may be present would be unlikely to cause an infection, she says.

You’re probably thinking: Well, what if an infected delivery person coughs or sneezes on your food containers?

You would have to touch these droplets with your hands and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth to get infected, says Cronin. But if you’re properly washing your hands before eating, then you’re already taking measures to prevent infection

Related: Washing Your Hands Can Prevent Coronavirus, Here’s The Right Way To Do It

“If you are feeling anxious about your takeout food, transfer the food from the containers to a clean plate, dispose of or recycle the containers, clean the surface where you placed your containers, and wash or sanitize your hands before you eat.”

Is it true that microwaving/reheating food delivery items until they are hot enough that steam arises reduces your risk?

There’s only a little truth to this coronavirus myth—emphasis on a little.

“There are studies that show that other coronaviruses (such as the one that causes SARS) are temperature sensitive and will be destroyed at 149 degrees for 3 minutes,” says Cronin. “This is because the protein layer that surrounds it can be destroyed by heat.”

But that’s evidence based on a different coronavirus—not the one that causes COVID-19.

“We don’t yet have enough information to know if COVID-19 reacts similarly,” Cronin says. “There is no evidence that shows that heating or microwaving your food until steam rises is effective in killing the virus, and no evidence to suggest that this is even necessary.”

Related: Here’s How Long The Coronavirus Lives On Clothes

Does choosing hot foods over cold foods reduce your risk of COVID-19?

That’s besides that point.

“You always want to be sure you are ordering your food from a restaurant that you trust to ensure that food handlers are following the required safety guidelines,” says Cronin. “When these are followed there is no increased risk to eating cold foods versus hot foods.”

Is it safer not to order takeout or delivery during the coronavirus?

“The riskiest part of takeout and/or delivery is the person-to-person contact with the delivery person, so be sure to keep your two metre distance when you have it delivered,” says Cronin. “Many restaurants offer contactless delivery now so you can prepay for your food without contacting other people.”

In response to what advice, in general, does she have for people ordering food as it pertains to the coronavirus myths, Cronin responded: “ENJOY IT! YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO PREPARE IT YOURSELF!”

Originally published on menshealth.com

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