Can You Really Catch Coronavirus From Food?

If it wasn't enough to worry about a steady supply of food in our pantry and fridge after the panic-buying chaos, now people are freaking out about the coronavirus disease spreading through takeaway food. Here's why you should take a breath before disinfecting your takeaway packaging or your actual pizza.

We've all been spooked after reading about three employees at I Love Pizza in Sydney's Mona Vale who were diagnosed with coronavirus. NSW Health told customers who ate pizza from the store between March 20 and March 28 to monitor their health for any noticeable symptoms.

So, is your love for pizza being affected by the possibility of a contamination?

With cafes and restaurants only open for takeaway in Australia, many people are no doubt questioning whether it is safe to buy food from a restaurant, where you can't ensure the health of the chefs and employees who handle our food and packaging.

You Don't Need To Sanitise Your Groceries

Even if you’re following advice to stay home as much as you can, we all have to get food somehow, which means regular grocery trips or deliveries. If the idea of letting packages of food from The Outside into your home is nerve-wracking, it’s important to remember that while the risk of picking up the coronavirus from the exterior surfaces of your groceries is not zero, it is very low.

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In a video by Australian Academy of Science, Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty explains one of the most sought out answers linked to our recent worry: how long can the virus live on surfaces.

"We're told it can live on cardboard and paper for up to 24 hours. I don't think that's likely to be a major source of infection but it's something you might just keep in mind when you're taking hold of the pizza box," said Doherty in the video.

"Maybe you open the pizza box and then before you take the food out, wash your hands and then put the pizza box somewhere out of the way. It can certainly survive longer on plastics and [on] steel [it] certainly survives for at least three days."

Other experts including the NSW Food Authority have reiterated that there's no evidence to date that suggests food is a source or route of transmission of the virus.

Practicing good hygiene is key

For both consumers and businesses, there are clear guidelines available on practicing good hygiene and food safety practices and taking extra care to avoid cross contamination between raw or under cooked and ready-to-eat items.

Anyone who believes they're unwell or may have come into contact with a COVID-19 case or someone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing, should stay home.

In fact, businesses such as Menulog, Deliveroo, Uber Eats and even Domino's are now offering contactless delivery, meaning the person delivering your food will leave the package at your door, move away and then give you a call to let you know your food's been delivered.

Other restaurants are taking further precautions. Scott Blamey, owner of The Runaway Spoon in Lindfield, told Business Insider Australia that although they had always been hygiene-focused, they were now taking extra precautions.

"We've stopped the use of people's keep cups," Blamey said. "We check the temperature of our dishwashers to make sure the hot water is at a certain temperature that it will clean the cups and obviously sterilise the cups."

If you're looking to get takeout, we suggest calling the restaurant beforehand to finding out what their food and safety policy is.

Governing bodies across the globe have consistently repeated that risks remain low as long as people are careful about washing their hands and keeping surfaces clean. Wash your hands before you go out to get food, come back and wash your hands again. It's really that simple.

What We Know About The Coronavirus So Far

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, was first discovered in China in late 2019. The first U.S. case was detected in January 2020, in a recent traveller who arrived in Washington State. Since its early beginnings, the story of COVID-19 has been rapidly evolving, with new information coming out daily.

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