As home deliveries, curbside services rise are packages safe to handle amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Professor Ben Chapman has been one of North Carolina State University's most sought after experts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the spirit of social distancing, ABC11 interviewed the food safety expert by internet video phone app Skype at his home where he is now working.

"One of the oldest sayings with food safety is, 'The biggest risk around food is not eating at all,'" he said to emphasize that we are actually fortunate to be living in modern times during the pandemic.

He notes that 'not eating at all' might have been a problem if you had had to stay home during a pandemic 15 years ago.

But we now live in a world where you can have anything delivered to your door including fresh foods.

"Right now we have a good situation, at least technology-wise, to be able to get us food when we need it," Chapman said.

But what about the packaging of those foods whether it's picked up curbside at restaurants and grocery stores or delivered to your home?

A lot of people are wondering if it could carry COVID-19 after another government agency said tests showed the novel coronavirus could live on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic for three days. On Thursday, Chapman said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration addressed handling delivery and pick-up packages on its website.
"They talk about food and food packaging as a low transmission likelihood. In fact, we've not seen it be a risk factor whatsoever in COVID-19."

Chapman says part of the reason is that the grocery and restaurant industries are taking serious precautions like having employees wear gloves, constantly wash their hands and use of disinfectants on surfaces whether food is being delivered or picked up curbside.

Some people have been wearing gloves to pick-up packages and then using disinfectant wipes to try to clean the boxes and bags.

But Chapman says that is not something he's doing.

"COVID-19 on packaging or onto any bags that might be used in take-out, it's not that it's impossible it's just that we do have a really good risk management strategy that we can all do, which is as I touch that package, that bag I can then go wash my hands."

Chapman says you should wash your hands after opening the packaging but before you handle what's inside.
And if what's inside is fresh food like produce rinse it off thoroughly and then wash your hands again.

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Right now, getting food delivered from restaurants or picking it up curbside isn't a problem since dining rooms are closed and take-out and delivery is their only business.

But getting fresh food and some staples is still a problem at stores that sell groceries.

Those with pick-up and delivery service are trying especially hard to restock as the supply chain struggles.

And a check with all the major chains today got a common response - they are all ramping up pick-up and delivery.

LIST: Triangle restaurants offer takeout, delivery as people practice social distancing to stop coronavirus spread

Lowes Foods has even tweeted the company is looking to hire additional workers during this crisis.
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