Experts Explain The Dos & Don'ts Of Food Delivery While You're Social Distancing

by Mia Mercado
Food delivery may be a safer option during the coronavirus outbreak.

As more and more people are staying home, finding safe ways to get necessities remotely is becoming a new way of life. If you’re wondering whether food delivery is safe during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s a valid question and you are far from alone in asking it. Like many answers to questions related to COVID-19 safety, the answer is yes, but with some caveats and things to consider.

Can The Coronavirus Spread Through Food?

According to the most up-to-date Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, COVID-19 is not known to be transmitted through food. Globally, there have been no reported cases of coronavirus transmission through food to date. Additionally, as the FDA explains on their page about food safety and COVID-19, food that’s prepared and handled properly poses minimal risk of transmitting coronavirus. So, your standard diet staples — take out dinner, pre-packed meals, fresh produce that’s been washed as per usual — should all be safe to eat.

Are Food Delivery Services The Safest Option?

If your area isn’t on the ever-growing list of places that are on coronavirus lockdown, you still may want to consider limiting trips to the grocery store and using more food delivery services. Dr. Edo Paz, VP Medical at K Health, a primary care app, spoke to Bustle via email about how to get food safely during the coronavirus outbreak. “We know that coronavirus can spread by close contact with an infected person, especially through airborne droplets from an inadequately covered cough or sneeze. Coronavirus is especially tricky because an infected person can have no symptoms and still be contagious,” Paz tells Bustle. “So minimizing contact with other people (aka social distancing) is extremely important, and contact-less delivery is one example of that.”

Per recommendations from experts including the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO), people in the U.S. should be consistently practicing social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. According to the WHO, person-to-person transmission poses a more significant risk than something like delivered food.

Because being in a crowded store causes a greater risk of exposure, you may want to cut back on grocery store visits and use delivery when possible. Paz notes that contact-less deliveries and cooking at home are the safest options.

Companies like FreshDirect, Grubhub, Instacart, Postmates, DoorDash, and Shipt are giving customers the option to have deliveries left on their doorstep to limit exposure to both delivery drivers and customers. Additionally, restaurants like Carls Jr., Burger King, and Moe’s Southwest Grill are offering free delivery options from their restaurant. Don’t forget to check out delivery options from your local restaurants as well who may be taking a hard financial hit due to the coronavirus outbreak.


What Precautions Should I Take When Handling Delivered Food?

As Navya Mysore, MD, family provider at One Medical tells Bustle over email, at-home delivery does pose some risk, although it is minimal. Online deliveries may pass through multiple places like distribution centers, packaging, and post offices, and are, in turn, likely to be exposed to more people. However, having food delivered from your grocery store or a local restaurant will have been handled by about as many people had you picked up the food yourself.

Consider having your delivery left at your doorstep to minimize your exposure, as well as the delivery person’s exposure. Additionally, Mysore recommends wiping down non-porous surfaces as an extra precautionary measure. "Wiping off products that are packaged can be helpful," Mysore says. "We should always be washing produce from the grocery store, but if you haven’t, I would get into the habit of washing your fruits and vegetables."

As coronavirus can live on surfaces exposed to infected respiratory droplets well after the infected person has gone, Paz reminds people, “It is still important to wash your hands frequently, especially after you have unpacked your food and before you eat it.”

What Should I Buy?

Wondering what you should stock up on during the coronavirus outbreak? Opt for purchasing a few more nonperishables or long-lasting items than usual. In other words, a couple cans of beans, some pasta, an extra bag of frozen veggies. Additionally, washing your hands with soap and water is more effective than hand sanitizer. So, no need to scour the internet for places delivering Purell.

Finally, remember to tip your delivery people generously, if you can. People who work in delivery are both on the front lines of exposure to coronavirus and have proved themselves crucial to keeping the rest of us connected to food and other necessities.


Navya Mysore, MD, family provider at One Medical

Dr. Edo Paz, VP Medical at K Health, a primary care app