Food Safety Coronavirus
Under the Movement Control Order in Malaysia, my love of dining out has come to a quick halt. While polishing up rusty home-cooking skills hasn’t been all bad, I’m itching to get a taste of some of my favourite restaurants again. But, is it safe (for me and those in the industry) to get food delivery or take away during the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s what I’ve found out.
How is the coronavirus spread?
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the virus is primarily spread “through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
How can I protect myself (and others) from the coronavirus?
Social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, covering your sneezes and coughs with a tissue or bent elbow, and avoiding touching your face are recommended to prevent transmission.
How long does the coronavirus stay on surfaces?
I’m particularly curious about this question in terms of food delivery safety and coronavirus. I figure I can avoid contact with humans through online payments and following social distancing practices for drop off and pick up. But, what about the containers and food itself?
Harvard Medical School reports that COVID-19 coronavirus can remain airborne for up to three hours, and survive up to “four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.” Find the original research paper here.
So, if someone infected with the virus from the restaurant or courier service sneezed on the food or packaging, it would not be safe, right?
This is where things start to get fuzzy. I searched the internet far and wide to find cases of transmission via food and packaging but did not come across a single documented case. Both the Center for Disease Control and the United States Department of Agriculture confirms that there are no reported incidences. Both suggest that food products and packaging are low-risk. Food Safety Authority of Ireland also supports this.
Okay, so I can get rid of the packaging but what about the food? Does heat kill the coronavirus on food?
Journalists from Serious Eats interpret information from this study to suggest that a temperature of 149°F (65°C) for at least three minutes is sufficient to inactivate the virus. This, however, is the temperature the food must reach, not the oven. They put together a comprehensive article here where they describe in detail how to sterilize different types of food.
Okay, the risk seems low, but how can I make sure there is no risk with food delivery and the coronavirus at all? And, how can I help protect those that are risking social contact by delivering it?
Considering this information, I’m thinking that it is more dangerous to visit the supermarket than to get food delivery (both for me and the workers I’d come into contact with by leaving my home). If person to person contact is the most common form of transmission, then it would seem the best thing I can do is to avoid people – there is less human to human contact with food delivery than at the store. I also have to think about the risk I’m putting the food service team in by delivering to my house. Remember the rule: don’t behave like you’re preventing yourself from getting the virus; behave like you have it and are preventing transmission to others. So here’s my personal plan for food delivery safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Food Safety Coronavirus Plan – Five Simple Steps
- Order and pay online.
- Practice social distancing when food is delivered. Ask the courier to set the food down maintaining a distance of around two metres. This is for your safety as well as theirs.
- Wear a mask to and from the collection. I use a Vogmask ordered from Singapore. (Here, WHO teaches how to wear a mask correctly.)
- Ask the courier to sanitize hands before handing over the order, and you do the same. (Remember, we’re preventing the spread both ways here.)
- Discard packaging, wipe down surfaces with an alcohol-based cleanser (70% isopropyl), wash my hands thoroughly, and reheat the food in my own dishes before eating. (More on sanitizing your home here, and Serious Eats guide to reheating food here.)
Food delivery safety during the coronavirus with an order from Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur
I test out my plan with a food order from Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur. They have menus for western, Malaysian, Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Additionally, you can order and pay online with their mobile app.
Step 1. Order and pay online. No interchanging of germs through money, contact or cards. Success!
Step 2. Maintain social distancing. See pic below. Also achieved.
Step 3. Wear a mask. Done.
Step 4. The Shangri-La courier carried hand-sanitizer in his pocket and was happy to use it before delivering the food. I did the same. Tick.
Step 5. Carefully transfer food to my own plates, discard packaging, wipe down surfaces and reheat in the oven avoiding any final risk. Affirmative.
Bonus. Enjoy a delicious meal that I didn’t have to prepare myself!
Here’s what we ordered from Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur from their special orders menu curated for use during the Movement Control Order (MCO):
- Hong Kong Style Roasted Duck (1/2 Duck) (RM 98)
- Wok-Fried Chicken with Chilli Black Bean (RM 58)
- Stir-fried Red Barley with Tomato and Garden Vegetables(RM 28)
- Stewed Hong Kong “Ee Fu” Noodles with Minced Prawns and Diced Vegetables (RM 28)
- Wok-Fried Red and White Rice with Seafood and Sakura Prawns (RM 28)
View Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur’s full pick-up and delivery menus here. (Also available at the end of this post.)
The special service is open daily from 8 am to 9 pm. Please call +603 2074 3900 / +6019 390 2257 to place your order or access through Shangri-La Specials Mobile App. For deliveries, a minimal fee of RM8 will be charged for locations within the 3km radius of the hotel. For locations within a 3-5km radius, RM18 will be charged. A minimum order of RM50 is required with 60-minutes notice for deliveries. Alternatively, self-pickup is also available at the Concierge Counter, Lobby.
Food Safety Coronavirus
To sum up, ensuring food delivery safety (both for myself and for the workers who bring it to me) during the coronavirus pandemic is not as scary as I first thought it would be. Equipped with accurate information from reliable sources, there are things I can do to stay safe and keep those in the delivery service safe. With professional kitchens, such as the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, already having strict food hygiene practices in place, I feel comfortable ordering meals knowing the risk of transmission is relatively low.
For additional reading, The Guardian published a well-written article on both the safety and ethics of food delivery in light of the coronavirus pandemic here, Wired offers a good perspective too here.
And, here’s a compilation of restaurants in KL offering food delivery and pick-up during the Movement Control Order (MCO) for the coronavirus pandemic.
- Golden Circle members can earn GC Award Points for every order.
- Golden Circle membership promotion and redemption is not applicable.