How often do you order food online

Risk of contagion: "Nobody has to be afraid of delivered food"


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The canteen is closed? in the Home office with the children? No time to cook? Do not feel like? In times of the Corona there are many reasons to have food delivered to your home. The Lieferando delivery service recorded around 20 percent more orders in Germany in the first quarter of this year than in the previous year. Accordingly, people also spend more per order. But how hygienic is the food delivered actually? The pulmonologist Susanne Huggett heads the hospital hygiene and infection prevention departments at the Asklepios clinics. She tells us whether you can get infected with the coronavirus through the food delivered and what she would never order herself.

ZEIT ONLINE: Ms. Huggett, suppose someone wants to order a pizza with a side salad. And then wonders whether he can get infected with the corona virus from eating. Maybe first with the salad: should he even have it delivered?

Susanne Huggett: I wouldn't worry about that.


Huggett: First of all: How are the coronaviruses supposed to get on the salad? Someone must have coughed or sneezed on it who is infected themselves. In order to get sick from food, it always takes a certain amount of viruses to adhere to it. But we're actually assuming that the restaurant washes the salad off. The employees are trained to adhere to the necessary hygiene rules.


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ZEIT ONLINE: What if they don't?

Huggett: In order for viruses to get on the food, the person who prepares the food would have to be acutely ill and also not behave hygienically correctly. Then a larger amount of pathogen could get onto the fresh food. Then when I eat the salad, the viruses can be absorbed through the mucous membranes in my mouth or through smoking. To do this, the salad has to stay in the mouth longer. That is very hypothetical. If I swallow the food relatively quickly as usual, the gastric juice, an extremely strong acid, kills the viruses in the stomach.

ZEIT ONLINE: So would you just have to eat faster to stay healthy?

Huggett: If a large amount of pathogen stays in the mouth longer, the risk of infection is higher, yes. But that is very unlikely. It is not yet known that the virus was transmitted through prepared foods.

ZEIT ONLINE: That means you don't think pizza is more hygienic than salad? Because it was heated in the oven while baking?

Huggett: No. Viruses are killed in the heat, that's true. What I can wash, I should wash. What I can cook, I should cook. Either way, food is not the typical source of coronavirus infection.

ZEIT ONLINE: But what if a sick cook sneezed or coughed over the meal?

Huggett: If I don't have confidence that the kitchen is cooked according to the applicable hygiene regulations, I shouldn't order food from this restaurant. But this does not only apply in Corona times. Gastronomy is a very strictly regulated industry. Kitchens are places with numerous regulations. Regardless of Corona, they are also regularly checked and monitored by the authorities. I consider it an extremely unlikely event that a cook will cough on food. Or that someone is working sick in a kitchen. If that were the case, it cannot be ruled out that the lettuce is contaminated with pathogens. But every cook knows that this is an absolute no-go.

ZEIT ONLINE: How long would the coronavirus survive on the food?

Huggett: How long the viruses remain infectious depends on various factors. From the temperature and the humidity, for example. There are studies that show that coronaviruses can persist on damp, cold surfaces for up to three days. They can get on food in the supermarket by sneezing or coughing. But if the restaurant complies with the applicable hygiene rules, i.e. washing, boiling or frying raw food before eating, then the risk of infection is reduced to a minimum.

ZEIT ONLINE: What exactly can a cook do to avoid infection?

Huggett: He works with clean hands, and depending on the products, even with gloves. He uses tools that are cleaned regularly. And he only prepares the food on clean surfaces, he stores food correctly, especially the products that need to be refrigerated.