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How to order takeout, grocery shop, wipe down your food in the safest ways possible

As COVID-19 pandemic continues, we went looking for some advice from professionals

File Photo
File Photo

Even if you’re staying inside, social distancing and trying to be as safe as you can when it comes to this new coronavirus, COVID-19, we all have to eat, right?

So, how do you order or pick up food while staying in line with all the recommended precautions? We thought we’d go over some findings and recommendations.

While grocery shopping:

How should you pay? Should you wear a mask? There’s a lot to think about here.

We’ll start by saying, using our own common sense and doing some extensive Googling, it does seem safer to order grocery delivery or pick-up, if that’s an option in your area or you can snag a slot (and afford it).

That way, groceries can be left at your doorstep. It’s less human interaction and you can pay online, from the comfort of your home.

If you must go to the store...

Social distance. This should go without saying. If there’s a busy aisle, skip it or circle back later. Keep some space at checkout, too. Six feet is the official recommendation.

“Your primary concern while shopping should be the risk of contracting the virus from other people, not from food or surfaces in the store,” a Time magazine story said. “While there’s a chance the virus could be transmitted on a surface, you’re most likely to get this from another person.”

If you can pick a time to shop when you know the store won’t be as busy, go then.

Be patient. Don’t bring your children or any other family members, if you can help it.

Don’t go if you’re sick or immunocompromised.

An expert who spoke with Time also had the smart idea of writing your list on a piece of paper rather than using an app or anything tied to your phone. The idea is, you can throw away your sheet of paper. But you don’t want to expose your phone to any more germs, considering you touch it all day long.

A lot of stores are making hand sanitizer available. Use it -- before you start shopping, and to wipe down your cart handle, and after, as in, before you even touch your steering wheel.

Of course, soap and water is preferable. But hand sanitizer should hold you over until you get home. And remember: No touching that face!

The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people, especially in areas hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, to use rudimentary coverings like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks to cover their faces while outdoors or in the grocery store.

Wipe your credit or debit card clean after use, wash your hands -- if you’re using cash especially, but it’s probably smart to wash them after paying by any method -- and maybe even consider Apple Pay if you don’t want to exchange money.

While getting takeout:

Sometimes you have to call for, or order online, some carryout. We’re doing our part to support local businesses, right? (If you have a paycheck right now, you should consider it!)

So, should you be worried about how your food is being prepared, handled, transported and delivered?

Yes and no. Perhaps “worried” is too strong of a word, but there are some considerations to keep in mind.

Similar to the grocery store section, it’s always best to fall back on those recommendations you’re hearing and seeing everywhere: You’ll still want to wash your hands after touching takeout containers, and avoid touching your face after bringing the pizzas off your front porch.

But we do have some good news: The New England Journal of Medicine published a study late last month saying that this novel coronavirus can be detected on porous surfaces such as cardboard, paper, or fabric for up to 24 hours -- and on hard surfaces such as glass and plastic for as long as to 72 hours.

But, all that said, the virus is NOT easily spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, scientists, food safety specialists, and the CDC have confirmed.

“Also, the virus loses strength over time,” a Yahoo report said. “So, even in the worst case scenario—an infected person sneezes on the packaging your food is in and then hands it to you—you would have to touch that exact spot where the virus lives and then pick your nose, put your fingers in your mouth, or touch your eyes to potentially become infected.”

No-contact delivery is your safest option. Pre-pay wherever possible.

Here’s what you’ll do: Grab your delivery order off the porch, open the package or packages, wash your hands, plate your food, and then dispose of the containers. Wipe down and sanitize your counter that the food sat on and wash your hands before and after eating.

While unpacking your groceries or other food:

Specifically, we wanted to know: Will this coronavirus survive in the fridge or the freezer?

While scientists don’t have test results to answer this question in regards to COVID-19 in particular, they do have a 2010 study that investigated the matter using related viruses, Dr. Frank McGeorge said.

In that 2010 study, they found related viruses survived longer at lower temperatures and lower humidity -- and that means putting groceries in the fridge is more likely to preserve the virus on those items longer.

The virus would also likely survive being frozen, McGeorge said.

But obviously, certain things need to be refrigerated.

So, what do you do?

Wipe off those items when you bring them home from the store, or wash your hands especially after touching them, McGeorge recommended.

When it comes to nonperishables, such as food items in cans and boxes, wipe those down too, or put them somewhere to sit for two or three days.

If there’s any virus, it’ll die, McGeorge said.

As always, you should wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly -- but that’s not specific to living through a pandemic. That’s the recommendation always.

Finally, don’t put chemical cleaners directly on your food, ever, McGeorge said.


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