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How to Be Safe Getting Takeout or Delivery

Delivery driver drops fast food off to customer.

Getting your favorite meal from your local restaurant has never been easier or more convenient.

Dining at the restaurant can be an enjoyable way to get out of the house and into the community, but let’s face it, sometimes you just want to be able to stay in. Nothing beats cozying up on the couch with comfort food and watching your favorite video streaming service. Or maybe you are hosting a party and don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking for several people.

Restaurants are making it simpler than ever to order food to go, whether you’re picking up takeout or having your food delivered.

Good restaurants go to great lengths to make sure your food is prepared and handled safely. Once the food leaves their doors, however, food safety is out of their hands. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide for how to practice food safety both for pickup and delivery.

Poster about food delivery safety during COVID-19

Stay away if you are sick

Right off the bat, let’s talk about food safety and illness. Common symptoms that indicate that you may have a communicable disease include a sore throat, fever, lingering cough, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms, you should be extra careful around people and food.

Just as a boss wouldn’t want their employees to come in and infect customers and other staff when they are sick, delivery drivers shouldn’t deliver while they are ill. It’s best to take a sick day and focus on recovery.

In addition, if you as the customer are feeling sick, you should take similar steps to limit your contact with other people. If you are sick but still craving your favorite treat, ask someone else to pick the food up for you so you don’t risk spreading your illness to other customers or food workers.

Alternatively, you can have your food delivered and request contactless delivery. Just make sure to tip online! 

Maintain time/temperature control

Another universal principle of food safety is making sure food stays at safe temperatures. The temperature danger zone is a range in which bacteria tend to grow the fastest on food. The longer food stays in the danger zone, the higher bacterial levels are likely to be.

To prevent bacterial growth, it’s important to keep food out of the temperature danger zone as much as possible. Cold food should be kept below 41°F and hot food should remain above 135°F.

Delivery drivers and customers picking up their food should use coolers, refrigeration, or a thermal blanket, when available, to keep food at the proper temperatures anytime the delivery (or the drive home) is expected to take longer than 30 minutes.

If you’re on the receiving end of a delivery, schedule it for a time when you’ll be home so you can eat or store the food soon after it arrives. When your food order arrives, check its temperature to make sure it’s safe to eat. Signs that the food has been in the temperature danger zone too long may include hot food items that are no longer hot and cold food items that are thawing or melting.

Keep it clean

Most health departments require food workers to get safety training for their jobs, and good restaurants will make sure their establishments and food preparation processes are sanitary. Still, as a customer, it’s not a bad idea to use your own dishware and utensils to eat your meal.

You should also wash your hands before you eat — you never know what germs they may have picked up during your day. When washing your hands, use soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

In addition, delivery drivers and customers going to pick up their food should keep allergenic foods and raw animal products separate to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. You should also keep the inside of your car clean and pest-free so as not to contaminate the food.

As delivery drivers and takeout customers follow these simple guidelines, takeout can be as safe to eat and enjoyable as dine-in food. In all things, be courteous to others and use common sense. In doing so, the world can be a safer place for everyone. For more food safety tips, check out our food handler training.

If you’re a delivery driver and are looking for more information, check out our article about how to practice food safety when delivering food.

— Calvin Clark

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