(04/08/20) ALEXANDRIA, La. — Opting for takeout meals and food delivery can still be a healthy and convenient way to feed the family while supporting local businesses that are being hard hit during the coronavirus outbreak. However, following safe food handling guidelines remains important.
There is no evidence to support COVID-19 transmission associated with food consumption, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it may be possible for a person to contract the virus by touching a surface or object that has the living virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes, said LSU AgCenter nutrition agent Quincy Vidrine.
“It’s important for consumers to take extra precautions in the wake of this outbreak and be hypervigilant in taking every measure to ensure the safety of their families,” Vidrine said.
These extreme measures are creating an increased awareness for food safety and instilling greater diligence in proper handwashing and sanitation in day-to-day activities, she said.
Vidrine offers the following recommendations to keep family members safe when ordering meals from restaurants.
— Choose contactless delivery services. Once the carrier has walked away, leave the outermost delivery bag or container on the doorstep and use gloves to discard it later. Only the actual food containers should be brought into the home.
— Before handling the food, wash hands with soap and water following the 20-second rule. Food should then be transferred from the takeout containers to storage or serving dishes so the disposable containers can be discarded immediately.
— Wash hands again. Just to be safe, reheat food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and sanitize any surfaces that came into contact with food containers.
— Pay by credit card online or by phone if possible to avoid handling cash.
— For curbside pickup, ask the server to place items in the trunk or back seat or set food down at least 3 feet from the vehicle where it can be retrieved once the carrier has left the area. Use hand sanitizer after handling food containers and follow previously mentioned food safety and sanitation steps upon returning home.
— Sanitize touched surfaces such as the doorbell, doorknobs and vehicle handles after deliveries, even if the carrier was wearing gloves. Remember, gloves do not guarantee that germs are not passed around and can give a false sense of security.
— Sanitize the sink faucet and handles as well as other kitchen surfaces that were touched during the meal preparation.
“In all situations, hand-washing remains the first line of defense in preventing the spread of germs and bacteria,” Vidrine said.
The key to proper hand-washing is to use enough soap and water together with friction to create a good lather to encapsulate any germs and remove them from the skin, she said.
“Don’t be fooled by the anti-bacterial soap myth — any soap will do,” she said.
“Use a nail brush if you have one, and dry with a single-use paper towel,” she added. “Use the paper towel to turn off the water before discarding it.”
Have delivery people leave bags outside and remove the contents before bringing them into your home. Then dispose of the delivery containers. Photo by Quincy Vidrine/LSU AgCenter
Takeout food should be transferred from the original containers to storage or serving dishes and reheated to 165 degrees. The disposable containers should be discarded immediately. Photo by Quincy Vidrine/LSU AgCenter