Pandemic Risk Assessment: Food prepared at home vs Takeout
May 24, 2020 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Why does the following chart from Vox warn against food sharing during the pandemic when getting takeout is widely practiced?

In two risk categories for outdoor gatherings with people outside ones's home, the Vox chart says: "Don't share food, toys, and other items . . ." If I were to prepare, say, a picnic to eat outdoors with two people not living in my household, using the highest level of sanitary practices--masked and gloved during preparation and measuring out individual portions into individual picnic bags, how would this be riskier than ordering three takeout orders for each person to be eaten in a more-than-six-feet away outdoor setting? Perhaps Vox is talking about individuals helping themselves from one container, a no-no if people are grabbing things. But if food items are prepared in a sanitary way and separated into portions ahead of time, isn't this equivalent to getting three takeout orders from a restaurant.
posted by Elsie to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Elsie: Perhaps Vox is talking about individuals helping themselves from one container, a no-no if people are grabbing things.

Yes, this is what they're talking about. It's a known cause of COVID spread.

They are also assuming that most people will not follow restaurant-style sanitation practices when cooking and packaging food, because the average person has neither the legal responsibility nor the training to do so.
posted by capricorn at 11:35 AM on May 24, 2020 [25 favorites]

They mean things like salsa or dip where people might doubledip without thinking about it, not separating out portions and then never intermingling again.
posted by Candleman at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Public health directives have to be simple and easy to understand, and getting into all the specifics, like, "you can share food but only if no more than one person is within three feet of the dish at any given time and the serving utensils are replaced or cleaned with soap between uses" is quite possibly accurate but much too complicated for most people (either to explain or to execute).

The food is almost certainly safe, the objects you touch are probably not, and the time you spend together while you are eating is definitely risky. (And any recommendation that makes hanging out with other humans more of a pain in the ass is going to have some effect just by virtue of making people less likely to hang out!)
posted by mskyle at 12:40 PM on May 24, 2020 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I'm assuming it means things like "this soup is amazing, want some?" Bad idea.
posted by kate4914 at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2020

Masked/clean-hand prep of lunchboxes/serving containers would be the way to go. Open-air-sharing is bad. No buffet, no passed plates, no taking a bite of someone's ice cream.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:42 PM on May 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

And no touching the handle of a serving spoon that someone else has touched.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

You know, I had been thinking about it in terms of utensils (there's a bunch of stuff going around with UV paint showing how much a substance can spread if you're using common serving utensils) but even just the open air food & common serving area makes a lot of sense to avoid. Virus particles wouldn't last very long on something as porous and probably acidic as food, but there are a lot of differences between getting take out (made by someone who is wearing a mask, and with ten or fifteen minutes elapsed between packing it up and getting it home to eat) or sharing one takeout container where one person serves themselves and breathes on it (probably not wearing a mask because they're eating, and also spends a while standing there and breathing into the air around the space, which may also be a mechanism), and then the next person comes and immediately stands in the same spot, touches the same utensils, takes a portion and starts eating right away.
posted by Lady Li at 5:05 PM on May 24, 2020

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