Even if a restaurant worker coughs or sneezes directly in your food, you won't catch coronavirus from eating the meal

ktaylor@businessinsider.com (Kate Taylor)
Even if someone sneezes in your food, you won't catch coronavirus.

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

If you're surviving off of delivery orders while self-isolating, you can rest easy on one issue — it seems to be effectively impossible to catch the coronavirus from food. 

The CDC, the USDA, and medical experts say there is no evidence of the coronavirus being spread via food. But, as people try to stay safe, some are still a bit freaked out by the idea of coming into contact with meals that have been handled by other people.

Related Video: What COVID-19 Symptons Look Like, Day by Day

J. Kenji López-Alt perfectly summarized many people's concerns in his extensively reported guide to food and coronavirus published in Serious Eats.

"Let's say a food worker coughs while preparing my food, how could I not pick up the virus from eating it?" López-Alt asked. 

Yet, Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist from the North Carolina State University, assured López-Alt it was okay. 

"Even if a worker sneezes directly into a bowl of raw salad greens before packing it in a take-out container for you to take home, as gross as it is, it's unlikely to get you sick," López-Alt reported. 

While I'm inclined to believe López-Alt and Chapman, I ran the same question by a few experts. And, they agreed — even in the unlikely case someone with COVID-19 coughs directly in your meal, you aren't going to catch the coronavirus. 

"The transmission is through the respiratory epithelium in your nose, mouth, and eyes. It's unlikely to be transmitted in the food, more likely on hands while holding food packaging," said Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, an emergency physician and the director of global health for Northwell Health. 

According to Jaimie Meyer, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist, there is no evidence to date of food-borne transmission of the coronavirus.

"The primary mode of transmission of the virus from person to person is through direct inhalation of droplets (as in, being within 6 feet of someone when they cough or sneeze and breathing it in)," Meyer said. 

Meyer and Cioe-Pena said that you should maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and the cashier or delivery person while ordering. Avoid sharing a pen if you're signing a bill. Make sure to wash your hands after handling the packaging of the food, which could possibly spread the coronavirus — though Cio-Pena says the risk is low. And to be sure to tip well. 

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