Is Food Delivery Safe from Cross Contamination?
Since the pandemic has forced people to shelter in place, food delivery has become an essential service in the food industry. According to analysts, meal delivery services grew by 158% in August this year compared to last year. This begs the question- Is food delivery safe?
Restaurants made the most of the situation by offering online ordering and ramping up food delivery to meet the rising demand. Third-party delivery platforms likewise experienced a boom as restaurants outsource delivery services.
The threat of COVID-19 has also placed an emphasis on food safety. Additional measures like sanitizing, disinfecting, and contactless transactions are being implemented to avoid cross contamination and foodborne illnesses.
To build a positive customer experience during and even after the coronavirus pandemic, restaurant operators need to implement lasting solutions for ensuring food safety in delivery.
Food Delivery and Food Safety
As the industry turns to food delivery to stay afloat or grow revenue, customers need to feel that food businesses are taking every precaution to ensure that the food they order is safe to eat.
Although there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food according to the CDC, it is better to err on the side of caution. From storage, food preparation, packaging, and delivery, proper handling of home-delivered food is important to avoid food poisoning.
Good hygiene is crucial in the foodservice industry. To ensure food safety, proper hygiene needs to be observed both in handling the food and storage to prevent bacterial growth and cross-contamination.
For storage, it is important to place food in sealed containers and in proper temperature. Storing food at the correct temperature and sealing them properly not only protects perishables from bacteria, but it also prevents cross-contamination from particles falling into it. You can install a continuous temperature monitoring device in your storage to avoid spoilage.
To avoid cross-contamination, here are some actions to take-
- Clean utensils before using
- Practice thorough and regular hand washing
- Store food in separate containers
Tips to Ensure Food Safety During Delivery
Here are some food safety tips to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Pack food in an insulated bag
Food should be kept cool or refrigerated during transport. An insulated container in a cool bag or with a coolant gel. Hot food should also be kept in an insulated box to keep it at the proper temperature upon delivery.
Cold food should arrive at 41F or below. Storing cold food for more than two hours above the recommended temperature is considered in the danger zone as bacteria can multiply quickly. Label perishables or grocery items like meat and poultry with stickers like Keep Refrigerated or Keep Frozen.
Secure packaging to avoid contamination
The packaging is another way to prevent contamination during the delivery process. Since most meals are delivered in cardboard boxes, they can quickly degrade. So, check whether the packaging has tears, is wet, or not secure. Keep foods separated, especially allergen-free meals to prevent cross-contamination or spillages.
Provide allergen information
Make sure you also label food properly with allergen information. You can incorporate allergen labels in your menu, inform your customers orally when they order, and place stickers on meals for delivery.
The 14 common allergens are eggs, milk, fish, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. cashew, almonds, hazelnuts), cereals with gluten (e.g. oats and barley), celery, crustaceans lupin, milk, mollusks, mustard, soybeans, sesame, sulfur dioxide, and sulfites.
Avoid making too many stops
More stops made during delivery will make it harder to keep food at the correct temperature and more risk for spillage. So, manage delivery routes efficiently and delegate accordingly.
Observe proper hygiene and maintain social distance
Remind riders or delivery staff about proper hygiene and social distancing requirements-
- Sick staff should not go to work and report immediately any symptoms to get proper medical advice.
- Remind them about showering daily, wearing clean clothes, keeping hair tidy or tied up, and wearing a face mask.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Observe social distancing, or a minimum of six feet, during transport.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after delivery. If not available, sanitize your hands with alcohol-based hand rub that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Also wash your hands after sneezing or coughing, before and after eating and drinking, after smoking, after pumping gas, after using the restroom, and after removing your mask or touching your face mask.
The CDC also encourages consumers to be proactive when it comes to food safety. They set out several guidelines for ordering home-delivered meals-
- Ask questions about food safety standards before ordering. This is especially important if you are ordering for high-risk individuals like the elderly, children below 5 years old, people with weak immune systems, and pregnant women.
- Make sure someone is available to receive the food to avoid food being left outside or mishandled.
- If no one is available to receive the food, arrange for a safe space for food delivery. Give instructions on where they can leave the package, which is ideally in a shaded, cool, and out of reach from pests or pets.
- In case of contamination, consumers can call toll-free federal food safety hotlines- USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) for meat, poultry, or pasteurized egg products and FDA's Food and Cosmetic Information Center at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366) for all other food products.
- Restaurants turn to food delivery for revenue amid the pandemic, with food delivery services growing 158% this August, year-on-year.
- Though there is currently no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food according to the CDC, food delivery services are implementing additional measures such as sanitizing, disinfecting, and contactless transactions to prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses.
- Maintaining food at the correct temperature is an important part of food safety in home-delivered meals.
- During food delivery, the CDC recommends packing food in insulated boxes with coolant gel, using secure packaging to avoid spillage, separating allergen-free meals, providing allergen labels, and avoiding too many stops during delivery.
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