How Does the Coronavirus Spread, and is Takeout Safe?

by Sara Williams

Many travelers rely on takeout and restaurants for their food while on vacation or away from home. The question has been raised: is the coronavirus spread by eating food? I looked at three respected sources and found that it seems to be safe according to the CDC, WHO and Harvard. They all agree, the coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, most often person to person. It is most likely safe to eat food, even if it happens to be prepared by someone infected with the coronavirus.

how is coronavirus spread

Breaking It Down:


Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.

This means that an infected respiratory droplet would have to somehow travel from the infected restaurant worker and make it into your lungs. However, when eating, foods and liquids typically do not make it into the lungs unless you are choking.

Read more on what the CDC says here.

Related Article: Earn Dining Points and Miles During Coronavirus Shutdown


The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus known to spread by upper respiratory secretions, including airborne droplets after coughing or sneezing.

In the case of hot food, the virus would likely be killed by cooking. This may not be the case with uncooked foods like salads or sandwiches.

According to this article, eating takeout food is safe. However, you should avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Also, hot foods may be safer than cold foods.

Read more about what Harvard experts say on the spread of the coronavirus here.


More information is needed, but early evidence suggests that there is nothing to worry about.

The World Health Organization obviously has to be very careful about whether what they say can or cannot spread the coronavirus. The fact that they are even suggesting that this is not a likely source of infection says a lot.

The good news is, eating takeout food probably isn’t an effective way for the disease to spread. Just be sure to wash your hands frequently!

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mike murphy March 27, 2020 - 9:16 am

virus on currency too?

Sara Williams March 27, 2020 - 9:21 am

Hi Mike,
It is said to last on surfaces much longer, but again it would have to make its way into your body.

Chris March 27, 2020 - 9:59 am

The big part your missing is the packaging. I won’t eat takeout for this reason. The plastic containers that food is in may have Coronavirus on the outside of it if a restaurant worker or delivery person is unknowingly sick. It can live on cardboard for hours too…there goes pizza boxes

Sara Williams March 27, 2020 - 10:10 am

Very true Chris! I think about this a lot too. I’ve been having groceries delivered. I have the person leave them on the step, I spray them down with disinfectant, and wait a couple hours to bring them in. Most takeout places I have been to have the person bringing it to my car wearing gloves. Hoping that is preventing some of the potential spread, but likely some virus is still spreading this way. We just need to be as careful as we reasonably can.

Larry March 27, 2020 - 2:14 pm

Yeah it’s not about the food. It’s about the packaging, the carton, the bag. If five people at the restaurant are involved in the prep and packaging of your food, that’s a lot more exposure than if you make it yourself. I personally would never get delivery in this environment. Too much close exposure. Takeout is still a risk, as much as we would like it not to be. I am minimizing or avoiding it. I figure if I’m already miserable because I can’t travel and can’t go out and have fun, adding some risk for the sake of a meal is not worth it.


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