How to safely order food delivery, takeout and groceries during coronavirus quarantine
Keep yourself and your food or grocery delivery driver healthy and germ-free with these tips.
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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If you're still following shelter-in-place orders and staying home more often as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be wondering: Can I still order food or grocery delivery? And is it safe?
The answer, for now, is yes: Many restaurants are still open for takeout and delivery, and food and grocery delivery services such as DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Instacart are still up and running.
There is currently no evidence that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through food or food packaging, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the Food and Drug Administration, though germs are known to live on surfaces for up to nine days. That means you also don't have to worry too much about a sick chef transmitting it to you via your food, according to an epidemiologist. This is particularly true for cooked foods. If you ordered something cold, like a salad, and the chef sneezed on it, there might be some risk. But if food is handled properly, there should be little chance of an issue.
The bigger potential problem is transmitting the 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. 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 noncontact and have deliveries left at the door.
While food delivery services are a convenient choice, restaurant owners say they prefer when customers order takeout or delivery directly through the restaurant, since these third-party apps often charge the restaurant large fees, cutting into their profits.
Here are three tips for safely ordering food or grocery delivery, if you're sick, quarantined or just staying in to try to stay healthy.
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.
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.
Watch this: Best practices for safe shopping, delivery and takeout in the age of coronavirus
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.
CNET's Dale Smith recommends tipping food delivery drivers 20% or more during special circumstances like these. 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.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.