Food delivery and coronavirus: is it safe, and should we sanitize groceries?

Is a food delivery safe? Is it safe to order takeaway? What about the ethics of online shopping during coronavirus? Here are tips for shopping safely during the pandemic

Food delivery
(Image credit: Getty)

Are you lucky enough to have a food delivery lined up? Or perhaps you've ordered a takeaway, a wine delivery or braved the shops? Should we sanitize groceries during coronavirus? And what about our other shopping? Is it safe (and ethical) to even order a takeaway?

Currently, there are no special measures recommended whether you receive a shopping delivery or bring home your own shopping, and the NHS says, ‘It's very unlikely [the Coronavirus] can be spread through things like packages or food.’

Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety expert at N.C. State University told The News & Observer agrees, advising hand-washing and hand-sanitizing instead. 'When I grab my cereal box and fill my bowl and put the box away, I wash my hands,' he said. He does, however advise washing fruit and veg, but says that he has always advised that. He does concede though, that if you feel better having cleaned your groceries, then why not. 

The biggest risk, continues Professor Chapman, is coming into contact with someone who is infected when you're out and about. You should wash your hands as soon as you come in, following government advice. 

If you do live with someone in a high risk group, it is of course not going to do any harm to wipe down all the packaging where possible with anti-bacterial wipes or solution. It won't kill the virus but it might minimise the spread of other germs. 

What did we do with our food delivery? We brought them to the front door, took every item out of the bags, wiped them with antibacterial wipes and put them in the hallway, ready for the fridge. Then we stored the bags out of the way in the shed. We'll use them in a few weeks when we're not so anxious about the spread of the Coronavirus. And then we washed our hands. And only then did we put the shopping away. Yes, it took 15 minutes to wipe down all 80 items... but it's 15 minutes well spent. 

You should also make sure you’re following food hygiene principles when you’re cooking.

Food hygiene tips 

  • You should always wash your hands before preparing food, and after touching raw food.
  • Keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat food.
  • Use different chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Store meat and fish in a sealed container on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
  • Always wash fruit and vegetables under cold running water before eating. 
  • Do not use household cleaning products or washing-up liquid on fruit and vegetables. These cleaning products are not intended for human consumption.

Getting your shop delivered and suspect that someone in your home has COVID-19? Remember that you need to specify when you order that the delivery driver should leave items outside and not come into your home.

Ordering takeaway during coronavirus: is it safe?

There's no evidence that ordering takeaway food is unsafe during the pandemic – so long as you're ordering hot food and the restaurant practises good hygiene, there's not need to worry about getting sick from the food.

What about the packaging? Should you be spraying it with disinfectant before opening it? The answer is: you can, but the better thing to do is to transfer the food into your own bowls or plates, discard the packaging, and wash your hands before eating. 

Is online shopping ethical during coronavirus?

This is a tricky question: without online shopping, we wouldn't be able to get anything right now, apart from food and medicine, and many of us (the vulnerable, the elderly, hard-pushed NHS workers) don't really have much of a choice – IF they can get a slot that is. 

As for the rest of us, we're being advised to go to the shops if we can't get a delivery. And if we can this doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't be considering warehouse staff and delivery workers. 

Before ordering from an online shop of any kind, make sure you read their Covid-19 statement, which should give you an idea of what measures they have in place to ensure the safety of their workers. If they don't have a statement on their website, steer clear. The same goes for food delivery services and takeaway apps – they should give their customers a reassurance that they are putting measures in place to minimise the risk to their workers.

  • More cleaning advice on our dedicated hub page