County health officials outline take-out food handling during COVID-19

Many restaurants across the West Valley are offering take-out or contactless delivery, if they are open at all. As residents try to support their favorite local eateries during the coronarvirus pandemic, they might wonder how to handle that food safely.

Michael Balliet, Director of the County’s Department of Environmental Health, discussed those concerns in a recent daily media briefing.

He said that the department, and county health officials, have reviewed numerous studies and FDA and USDA guidance.

“[It’s] unlikely to transmit COVID through food or food packaging, and there is absolutely no evidence that has occurred at this point,” Balliet said.

Still, he reminded people to frequently wash their hands, particularly after being around high-touch areas and before eating any meals.

Guidance for grocery stores, restaurants, and their customers

While grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants, convenience stores, and charitable feeding are allowed to operate, they are subject to a number of restrictions.

All open essential businesses in the county must have, display, and implement social distancing protocols.

Balliet asked customers to keep that in mind when going to the grocery store or picking up a meal.

“We really encourage people to stop and take a quick look at that, so that you understand going into that restaurant or other food facility what their plan is because they may actually have expectations of you as well, such as keeping a six-foot distance from the workers.”

The county has done three mailings to more than 9,500 local restaurants informing them of the rules. Emails, calls, and site visits are helping to ensure operational compliance.

While social distancing, ground markings, and plexiglass barriers might be new, food service hygiene efforts are not. That is particularly the case with hand washing and disinfecting and sanitizing high touch surfaces.

“A lot of these requirements that we’re talking about really aren’t new to restaurants and the food industry,” Balliet said.