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Food Delivery & Food Safety: What You Need To Know

Food Safety & Food Delivery

Are food delivery businesses ensuring food safety?

Maybe. For example, has reports of customers nationwide complaining that food from delivery workers and restaurant partners have been responsible for making them sick, impacting their health, and creating many unnecessary risks.

Can food harbor coronavirus?

“There's very little evidence of transmission by surfaces. There's no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food,” said Donald Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science at Rutgers University, in the New York Times in August 2020. “Therefore the safest choice is going to be the one that avoids contact with the most people.”

What are the dangers of food delivered to homes?

Food delivery reduces the amount of touch points associated with dining in a restaurant. Many delivery programs have instituted no touch/no interaction options and tell their delivery people to always wear gloves, which greatly minimize risk and allows for enjoying food safely.

What is being done to ensure best practices are following when delivering food?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for FDA and other health agencies and partners to help protect consumers to ensure that delivered food that comes from a restaurant or other establishment is delivered safely by drivers or other workers who follow and maintain proper hygiene practices when serving customers. This will help control foodborne illness and limit the spread of any foodborne virus, as well as improve overall hygiene and generally make sure consumers are safe.

What is the US Federal Government doing about safe food delivery?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scheduled a meeting in October 2021 to address food safety risks “as consumers order more meals and groceries online.” Because consumers often rely on food delivery contractors and other employees to deliver their meals and groceries directly to homes and businesses, local health agencies must rely on these businesses to ensure the materials and meals that are delivered are safe by following an appropriate process to make sure the food is not contaminated.

Food delivery businesses pack meals with fresh meat and other items — sometimes including fresh produce intended to be eaten raw — refrigerated with blocks of dry ice or cold packs. They rely on the efficiency of home delivery services.

Can the coronavirus disease be transmitted through food and food packaging that is delivered?

To date, both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration has no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or food packaging. However, while food delivery and restaurant services can be convenient, these food handling services must make sure food safety is part of the package, too. Home delivery food, like all food, must be handled properly to prevent food poisoning and control safety.

Protective packaging can control foods from becoming contaminated in order to protect consumers from becoming sick, but again, safe food delivery is of the utmost importance to make sure safety is part of the delivery when people order food from a restaurant.

Why is food safe from COVID-19?

The World Health Organization says food/grocery delivery workers are safe if the provider follows appropriate personal and food hygiene practices. Always clean your hands with soap and water after accepting deliveries in order to limit risk.

FDA says unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) virus like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food packaging?

According to FDA, given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging is considered to be extremely low. Nevertheless, safe food packaging is always important to limit risks and ensure safe food.

Is the food supply safe if food workers are exposed to or sick from COVID-19?

FDA does not anticipate that food products will need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market should employees that work on a farm or in a food facility test positive for COVID-19.

What are the safety tips for food delivery drivers who work during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Stay home if you are sick and DO NOT make deliveries.

If you develop a fever or symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice before visiting their office and you should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, after talking with your doctor. This way you can protect customers.

How can I make sure food safety practices are being followed by delivery services?

Research companies and call customer service to ask about food safety practices and how they control risks so that contamination does not occur.

Ask how the company responds if food is delivered at an unsafe temperature — both hot and cold — or is otherwise not safe to eat. Find out if the company provides information with each shipment or delivery on safe handling and preparation of food, including cooking temperatures.

Remember, this is about maintaining the health of you and your family, and the employees in any industry with any worker who provides a service related to consumers must control contamination and identify a proper process to eliminate any foodborne virus.

How can I ensure safe and responsible food delivery?

When possible ensure someone is at home when delivered food arrives and try to identify any delivery drivers who are affiliated with the local restaurants from which you order. Also check to make arrangements for delivery when someone is at home so perishable foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy can be quickly stored in the refrigerator or freezer instead of being left outside until someone is home. If you can’t be there in person, see if a neighbor can store the food until you return.

What do I do if nobody is home when the food is delivered?

If no one can be at home when food is delivered from a restaurant or other food delivery business, ensure the food delivery partners protect any meal with temperatures that maintain the safety of the food. Delivered food ordered online by workers doing business with any local restaurant should identify surfaces in a cool, shaded, and secure location where pests and rodents won’t be able to contact a meal or any food that will be eaten by consumers. Let the food delivery company know where you would like them to leave your food so you don't have to search for it when you get home.

Should I examine the items and packaging to ensure they are intact once delivered?

 Ensure companies and services delivering food follow best practices to eliminate contamination in order to maintain safety. Any customer can identify the safety practices related to food by making sure the business and/or company has used insulated packaging and materials such as dry ice or frozen gel packs to keep perishable food cold in transit and look for labels that say “Keep Refrigerated” or “Keep Frozen” if perishable food has been ordered.

Should I check the temperature of perishable food when it arrives? 

Perishable food that has been shipped should arrive frozen, partially frozen with ice crystals still visible, or at least as cold as it would be in a refrigerator (40°F or below). Even if a perishable food product is smoked, cured, vacuum-packed, or fully cooked, it still must be kept cold to ensure it does not make consumers sick from any foodborne virus.  

Remember, companies and their employees must maintain a safe environment by following best practices for hygiene so that food is not contaminated. Food preparation surfaces are very important and a safety system must be in place to address materials that can have a direct impact on consumers.  

Businesses can search online or contact their local health department for more resources.  

After I get perishable food from delivery services what should I do?

After ensuring perishable food was delivered at a safe temperature (40°F or below) and with safe packaging, store it in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible until you are ready to prepare it.

Notify the company if food arrives above 40°F. Don’t eat any of the food, or even taste it, to see if it is safe. Food can be unsafe and still taste, look, and smell OK. When in doubt, throw it out.

What should I do to check the food safety track record of a local delivery service?

Check a restaurant’s inspection report at your local health department site. This helps protect and consumers from a food-related virus.

Also, be aware of delivery times. Services that provide cooked meals and foods can make you sick if they sit out for more than 2 hours, or as little as 1 hour if it’s 90°F or warmer outside. Delivered restaurant meals should be eaten right away or refrigerated if they contain a hot or cold product, such as a salad of fresh cut fruit or a grain and vegetable bowl with grilled chicken.

If you have leftovers or are saving a hot food delivery for another day, refrigerate within 2 hours.

Just remember, temperature — both hot and cold — are very important to keep food safe and the delivery service, restaurant or restaurants, and any other business involved is responsible for protecting the customer.

Sometimes, something as simple as making sure the person who is there to deliver is wearing gloves or has an extra pair of gloves is just one example of what can be done to ensure the customer is safe.

What can I do to keep food safe at home after I get it from delivery services?

Wash your hands and kitchen utensils, and with soap and water at an appropriate temperature for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after handling any food and before eating. Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with soapy water at an appropriate temperature after using them. This will help control for any foodborne virus, limit contamination and risks, as well as keep food preparation surfaces safe. 

Also, separate foods to avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods, and use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for these ingredients. 

How do I report a foodborne illness after delivery? 

If you think a food delivered to your home has made someone sick, it is important to report it. 

Reporting a foodborne illness can also help protect other consumers who may have received food from the same restaurant or many of the other food handing services, drivers, workers, or those delivering food in your area. This will help control the spread of disease, and ensure safe food. 

The CDC estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Best practices that limit cross contamination and improve food handling, and essential packaging that protect consumers, all go a long way toward protecting consumers.

What is FDA doing about food safety delivery?  

FDA's Annual "Food Safety Summit" is an opportunity for the agency to further its collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal regulatory authorities and a broad array of stakeholders, including industry, workers, business, restaurants, consumer and public health organizations, consumers, and academia. 

Topics for discussion during the summit include:

  • Types of business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce models including produce and meal kit subscription services, ghost kitchens, dark stores
  • Safety risks associated with foods sold through B2C e-commerce
  • Standards of care used by industry to control these safety risks
  • Types of delivery models such as third-party food delivery and autonomous delivery models
  • Regulatory approaches to food sold through B2C e-commerce, including challenges and gaps that need attention
  • Labeling of foods sold through B2C e-commerce 

The meeting also allows consumers to ask questions that address any other safety issues consumers and any restaurant customer may have about cooking temperature, packaging, delivery food safety measures, food handling, food safety system, quality of safety gloves, the cleaning of surfaces so they are safe and any other questions regarding food safety.

What are delivery companies doing about maintaining food safety?  

Merchants and delivery people are expected to adhere to food safety regulations and control when preparing or otherwise handling your order. 

What are delivery services doing about food safety handling requirements during COVID?

To protect themselves and customers many delivery people are being ordered to wear face coverings made of cloth or other protective fabrics that cover the bridge of the delivery person's nose down to the chin and be secured to the face.  

Surgical masks or N95 respirators are often not required. In order to ensure standards of food safety, delivery services may have "best practices" guidelines that require an insulated hot bag during delivery to make sure foods are kept at a safe temperature to make sure the customer is not exposed to contamination.

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Recent Reports Mentioning Food Delivery

Purchased several items from the store thru uber eats, including a box of nuggets, which tasted odd, and mushy inside, a tenders box, tenders tasted also odd a twister meal and 10 pieces of chicken, and having only eaten this, now been feeling nauseous and vomiting most... See More of last night and continuously today also. | Symptoms: Nausea, Vomiting See Less

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Cramps
Suspected source: Food from here
Onset: 12 to 24 hours
Duration: 4 to 12 hours
Additional information: From DoorDash | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Cramps See Less

Wife in Hospital took delivery of Ready Frozen meals Sweet & Sour Chicken with Egg Fried Rice. Caused severe diarrhea 12 hours later.
Duration 2 hours.
Treated with 3 x Loparamide 2mg capules
Ok after 24 hours | Symptoms: Diarrhea See Less

My mom ordered a double cheese burger with no pickles or ketchup just mustard. She added extra mustard. Immediately after eating her stomach aches and 2 hours later she began throwing she is 14 hours into throwing up. The food was door dashed and sealed. No tampering.... See More She is 66 years old. She has expressed that she will never eat there again. | Symptoms: Vomiting, Stomach Pain See Less

Not sure me and my worker both got chicken and both were sick in the morning Got the food from Uber eats | Symptoms: Nausea, Fever, Vomiting, Other See Less

After ordering on Uber Eats, I received my order: the burgers were cold and the fries were still cold inside, almost still frozen. I had stomachaches diarrhea and nausea | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Stomach Pain See Less

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Cramps
Suspected source: cherry slushy and stick on a brownie
Onset: 4 to 12 hours
Duration: Less than 4 hours
Sick: Me
Additional information: I had gotten it doordash ps I wasnt even supposed to get brownie on... See More a stick or a cherry slushie because doordash doesnt even had them but now im vomitting red :)
still sick and having horrible stomach pains and horrible diarrhea | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Cramps
See Less

Myself and my 3 kids violently sick after eating fish fingers from their delivery.
They were properly cooked as per packaging.
Definelty the fish fingers as my husband ate the same food except the fish fingers and he is fine. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Vomiting See Less

Well I had gotten chillie fries from my mom cuz she had ordered them which are food was doordashed to are house, well my mom started feeling off so she quite eating those chillie fries and gave them to me I eat all until later I started... See More to feel sick weak and then had really bad bathroom issues and then at the middle of the night I started to throw up and I was puking from 11pm-8am. And I could not keep anything down and my stomach hurt real bad and the sad thing this is not the first time this has happened. When I was abt 10 or 11 I had gotten chicken tenders and some sauce and then as zap on as I eat it I got sick but this place is nasty and there is a need for a health check inspection this place frl needs to have it’s food tested and they need to stop giving old food to customers | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain See Less

Ordered a salad from door dash and hours after eating it I got food poisoning | Symptoms: Nausea, Vomiting See Less

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