Expert offers tips for safely buying take-out food and packages during COVID-19
Reliance on take-out and food delivery is increasing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and, while experts say the food supply appears to be safe, there are ways to emphasize food safety from these sources.
“The FDA has stated that the U.S. food supply remains safe for both people and animals. There is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” said Joell Eifert, director of the Food Innovations Program in the Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology and Extension Specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
However, there are some simple practices you can do to further emphasize food safety. Receiving and delivery practices should minimize human to human contact which can include:
- Pre-pay for your order before delivery to avoid sharing pens or payment equipment.
- Ask for your delivery to be left at the front door to avoid hand to hand contact.
- Ensure that you will be available or are notified of your delivery to ensure that perishable items don’t sit out of refrigeration too long.
- When bringing your delivery into the house, place the outer box or bag on a hard surface that can be cleaned and sanitized. Remove the food from the outer box or bag and then immediately discard the outer bag or box.
- Wash your hands before putting food away.
- Clean and sanitize the surface that outer boxes or bags touched.
- Wash your hands before opening, preparing, or eating food. Washing hands before eating is always recommended.
The food industry is dedicated to making sure food, food establishments, and food manufacturing facilities remain safe and do not contribute to the current outbreak. The most effective tools against the COVID-19 virus are already being used by these food producers and are basics for food safety, Eifert said.
“Practices already in place include handwashing, ensuring that ill workers are sent home, following standard operating procedures for making a safe quality food product, avoiding situations that allow cross-contamination and following sound cleaning and sanitation practices,” Eifert said. “These practices are not new to food establishments and are providing to be sound practices to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 to employees as well as customers.”
Eifert said that measures taken by food manufacturers are:
- Practicing social distancing in the employee common areas like cafeterias, restrooms, and breakrooms.
- Increasing the cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces or shared equipment used by employees (using CDC-recommended procedures).
- Wearing disposable gloves and gowns for cleaning and disinfecting.
- Use EPA-registered disinfectants safely.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension has a vast library of resources on food safety and a full list of publications on food safety in a variety of environments can be found here.
Eifert has over 20 years of food science experience within the industrial, regulatory and academic sectors. Her career in academia has been spent predominantly in an Extension and Outreach role with her most recent position is as the Director of the Food Innovations Program within the Department of Food Science and Technology. The Food Innovations Program goal is to provide the technical assistance needed for the food processing industry to produce high quality, safe, and innovative food products. One of the program’s main missions is to increase the awareness of Virginia’s food producers to matters of food safety, pertinent food regulations and general concerns associated with starting a food business. More here.
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