With Covid-19, going out to eat in a restaurant or meeting up with friends at a café are definitely off the menu. Ordering food to take home or having it delivered is now the only way to “eat out.”
But how safe is it?
Doctors seem to agree that it’s not the food we should be worried about, but the packaging. There is no evidence indicating the virus lives in food but it can live on metal, cardboard, glass and wood for several hours, even days. Exactly how long is still a matter of debate but the point is, the virus can stay on surfaces.
The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Health Authority has produced a helpful guide on how to handle food that comes from outside your home.
- No matter how friendly he is, avoid any direct contact with the delivery driver. When ordering, ask for the food to be left on the doorstep or in the lobby of your building.
- When you’ve taken the delivery bag inside, place it straight in the sink and take the food out. Throw the empty delivery bag in the bin and clean the sink with disinfectant. Some doctors also recommend wiping the outer surface of delivery packaging with disinfectant.
- Transfer the food to clean dishes. Avoid touching the disposable dishes the food came in and don’t use or store them for using another time.
- Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before you start eating.
Takeaway food from restaurants
- While waiting for your order, stand at least 1.5 meters from the serving window or from the next person ahead or behind you in line.
- Don’t take children or elderly people with you.
- Wear gloves when you leave your home to avoid touching surfaces which may be contaminated.
- Whenever possible, pay online with contactless bank cards or mobile payment services such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. If you must use cash, try not to touch it with your bare hands.
- When you get home, leave your shoes outside.
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately.
It is also preferable to order hot food rather than cold dishes. But if you must have a salad, dispose of the delivery containers as explained above.
Takeaway food from shops
What about the food you buy from the supermarket? Many experts also recommend wiping down packaging (cans, jars, etc) with soap and water or sanitizer and transferring the food items into your own clean containers straight away.
To heat or not to heat?
Food from the fridge or freezer should be cooked or heated thoroughly at a temperature of 75 degrees Celsius, minimum. The same goes for reheating takeaway or delivered meals.
Science journalist Maria Konnikova favors ovens over microwaving, arguing that it is important to heat the food for longer. The US food and Drug Administration is also less keen on microwaving because it tends to cook unevenly.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, microwaves have been proven to kill bacteria and viruses when zapping the food from 60 seconds to five minutes. But not all microwaves emit the same power and cook in the same way. The general rule is the higher the watts, the shorter the cooking time, but two minutes is a good average.
Fruits and vegetables should, of course, be washed before cooking or eating. Baking soda makes a great natural cleanser.
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.