The ongoing lockdown and pandemic scare means we are all staying indoors and minimising social contact, as advised by the government and health authorities. In such a scenario, getting food (cooked or as raw ingredients) is fraught with issues. Venturing out means potentially spreading or catching the coronavirus. In urban India, most people are getting their groceries and food via online food delivery businesses which have seen an exponential rise in orders. People are shifting to delivery apps for everything from groceries to takeouts. In such a scenario, the hygiene and safety practices in the pick-up and delivery system become important, in order to safeguard both workers and consumers.
These businesses are gradually acclimatising their practices to reassure anxious customers that chances of contagion are minimised.
One such initiative they have adopted is contactless delivery. “The issue will be limited to packaging material and food handling which can be dealt with by following a set of strict rules," says Gaurav Mehta, Director, Trial Box, a unique concept of party gourmet boxes.
For Cross Border Kitchens, a multi-format, multi-kitchen, multi-brand food delivery company in Delhi, delivering hygienic food has been de rigeur since they launched. “We now ensure zero contact delivery and no-contact cooking. All our riders wear masks and sanitise their hands regularly," says Ahsan Ali Qureshi, co-founder, Cross Border Kitchens. "The riders leave the order at the customer’s doorstep to prevent any bacteria or germs from being transmitted." Their kitchens are scheduled periodically for a thorough sanitisation exercise, including cleaning door handles, table surfaces, table tops, and walls. The staff has been educated about the virus, its symptoms, and about precautionary measures on how to use masks. Hands are washed regularly during shifts. And all employees go through daily thermal scans, at all entry points.
Home delivery outlet Biryani by Kilo has been sanitising their kitchens every hour, and taking employees' temperatures every day. Even the delivery bags are sanitised. Their dum-cooked biryani handis are delivered in tamper-proof, sealed bags. “Our staff is maintaining social distancing during production, assembly and packaging, and using masks and gloves," says Anurag Katriar, Executive Director and CEO, Degustibus Hospitality & NRAI President. However, he says, the fact remains that this virus is hugely contagious and there is still some amount of risk while ordering food, "just as it is with ordering your daily supply of milk, bread or eggs!”
Dimcha, a cloud kitchen in Vasant Kunj which deals in Chinese cuisine, ensures safe packaging with a double outer layer."We also do multiple frequent sanitisation of kitchen utensils, and regular temperature checks of all involved personnel to ensure safe food delivery,” says Dr Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group.
What can customers do to minimise risk of infection?
Gaurav Mehta, who has presented a white paper on food handling, says people should collect the delivery food and keep it on a separate area used for outside material, ideally outside the kitchen. "Open the food containers one by one, and pour food directly in the heating containers. Throw all the empty food containers in a bin outside your house. Wash the outside food receiving area properly with soap to avoid risk of someone touching and make that area out of bounds for all family members. Re-Heat the food inside the heating containers thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F/75°C until hot and steaming. In the microwave, cover food and revolve so it heats evenly. Let food rest for at least three minutes before serving/eating."
Here are some more tips when you are ordering takeaway: Opt for complete contactless delivery along with payment via online modes only. Ask for no-touch deliveries and a text or call on arrival. Establish a designated pick-up zone to maintain proper social distancing with the delivery person. Keep heating containers handy to pour food in the containers on a clean slab inside the kitchen. And, of course, wash your hands properly with soap for at least 20 seconds before touching anything. Avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes or nose.