LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Is takeout food safe to eat, and can COVID-19 spread through food or packaging? Those are questions many are asking during this global virus pandemic where there are still a lot of unknowns.
According to some doctors, takeout food is fine. A food safety specialist at North Carolina State University and the FDA say there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus is transmitted by food or food packaging. It is believed that the main spread of the new virus is person-to-person contact, which includes droplets that remain in the air after someone coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC.
"I want to be clear that food or the packages could carry the virus, but the risk of transmission is very, very low," Benjamin Chapman, professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, said. "This is a remote possibility and thousands if not millions of times less likely than any of the other exposure routes. Really, really low risk."
Although the heat from cooking is more likely to kill off the virus, doctors say the risk of contracting COVID-19 through a hot or cold meal is extremely low but are encouraging you to take precautions with to-go food.
"What we've been basically (doing) is we receive food, try to take out some of the packaging actually on the porch even and leave it out, and then when we come in we sort of wipe any of the surfaces in the remaining packaging and then obviously wash our hands," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, said.
Doctors also say if COVID-19 is ingested, the stomach can actually get rid of the virus during digestion. But, the Harvard Medical School Coronavirus Resource Center says room temperature foods, like salads or sandwiches, could potentially harbor the virus.
The FDA says SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, "is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission."
But, Harvard's Coronavirus Resource Center says the virus could in fact be spread by an infected food worker who doesn't properly wash their hands and then handles food.
"There's a chance that the food employee in the window is sick, but likely the food business is following employee health policies and local health department recommendations to keep those individuals home," Chapman said.
Experts say many delivery services are working on best practices, including contactless deliveries -- such as customers asking for their food to be left on a porch or doorstep -- and using touch-free and cashless transactions. They also recommend picking up any takeout or delivery packages with gloves.
"You can remove your food from the external packaging, properly dispose or recycle it," and put the food on a plate. Then after disposing of your gloves, "wash and or sanitize your hands before sitting down to eat," experts said in report from CNN.
As far as making trips to the grocery store, experts stress the importance of maintaining social distancing as stores may be full of people who can cough, sneeze and spread their germs on carts and in checkout lines. Anyone feeling sick or who thinks they may be sick is encouraged to stay home. Experts also suggest going to the store during slow hours.
Precautions you can take when heading to the grocery store include bringing gloves or wipes and hand sanitizer, along with your own reusable grocery bags. Experts say you should wash and/or sanitize your hands immediately after leaving the grocery store and after handling anything you think may be contaminated.
The FDA says the virus can't live on imported food packaging, and that it could only survive on a surface for a small period of time and depending on the type of surface, could live for a few hours to a few days, according to a report from Fox News.
"While it's possible that the virus gets deposited (on packaging) we have no indication from epidemiology or the literature that this is a risk factor for COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses. Even with the millions of cases of influenza each year, packaging isn't something we talk about," Chapman said.
Experts say the worst case scenario would be that an infected person coughed or sneezed directly on food or its packaging, as opposed to the person simply touching it. But, food scientists say in order for the virus to be transmitted that way, you'd have to touch the contaminated item and then touch your face, which is why health officials stress the importance of keeping your hands away from your face.
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. CNN and Fox News also contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.