Is It Safe to Have Food Delivered to Your Home During COVID-19?

Germ expert Jason Tetro on how to stay safe from coronavirus when ordering food to your door.

Is it safe to have food delivered during COVID-19?Photo: Shutterstock

Ask An Expert: How Safe Am I from the Coronavirus When Ordering Delivery?

Reader’s Digest Canada: How safe is it to have food delivered to my home right now?

Germ expert Jason Tetro: Pretty safe. Let’s start with the packaging. Most of the time, the person who is delivering the food has put it into a separate container and they take it out of that container to provide it to you. So the only risk from the delivery person is really in that few seconds that they’re taking it out of the bag and putting it into your hands or onto your porch.

At the place where the preparation is occurring, someone in the kitchen could happen to cough or sneeze onto the packaging. If it’s cardboard, you don’t have to worry about it—the virus will go into the cardboard and it’s very difficult to get it out of there and onto yourself. If your food is in Styrofoam or plastic, you can just give it a wipe down with a bit of soap and water. Or, take the food out of the container, put it into a dish you trust and throw away the container.

But what about the food itself?

The virus will die at about 65 C. So when the food is cooked, the virus is killed.

And if someone happens to have coughed on the food when it came out of the oven?

The virus will die soon after it hits the heat.

What if I ordered a salad, or something else prepared without heat?

When you’re talking about something that isn’t cooked, the worry isn’t just coronavirus—but also other foodborne pathogens like salmonella or listeria. If you’re purchasing non-cooked items, you want to know that it was stored properly, washed and that the person preparing it had clean hands. Thankfully, though, the amount of the coronavirus you’d be exposed to when eating is very low.

But is it dangerous to eat the virus, as well as breathe it in?

No, it’s not the same. If you chew the food really well, that’ll ensure it goes down your intestinal tract and not your respiratory tract. There, if it does affect you, it’ll just be like if you ate something bad and got food poisoning.

Next, we ask: should I be disinfecting my groceries during COVID-19?

Jason Tetro is host of the Super Awesome Science Show podcast, and author of The Germ Files.