How to ensure safe food delivery in lockdown

delivery man holding cardboard box

Sue Hewitt

Posted August 20, 2020

Avoid food poisoning or wastage in lockdown with these food safety tips.

Holed up at home, Victorians are dialling in delivered feasts and weekly groceries as never before. And we’re cooking up a storm of Good Samaritan meals to drop off to vulnerable neighbours or family members. 

But while ordering in and feeding friends in need are undoubtedly signs of the times, food-safety experts warn it’s important to take care that we’re not unwittingly dishing up a side of danger with dinner.

“We are eating more home-delivered food in these times, whether it is online grocery deliveries or take-away from your favourite restaurant, but there are a few important steps to take to safeguard yourself,” says Lydia Buchtmann of the Food Safety Information Council.

She says there is no evidence that coronavirus is transferred by food packaging with either groceries or home-delivered meals. “But as with everything at present, you must take precautions and wash your hands after handling the delivery,” she says.

Firstly, if a home-delivered meal is intended to be eaten hot, she says it’s important to make sure it is hot when it arrives at your doorstep. Or, if you’ve ordered meat, dairy or other groceries that need refrigeration or freezing, ensure the delivery isn’t left more than an hour at your front door.

Lydia warns to be particularly wary of ordering in meals from backyard cooks spruiking home deliveries via social media. While their low prices might be tempting, she says there is no guarantee that the food has been prepared according to minimum hygiene or other food-safety requirements that apply to licensed food sellers. “Buy your take-away from a local restaurant or food outlet that is licensed,” she says.  

A rare silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis is that more people are looking out for elderly neighbours, offering to pick up groceries or dropping off meals. But Lydia says it’s important to pay extra attention to food safety when preparing or delivering meals for older people and other vulnerable community members.

assortment of take away dishes on a blue table

It's important to think of your eldery neighbours during extended lockdowns and how one meal can make a huge difference.


Bacteria such as listeria, which can develop in pre-prepared salads, cold meats and other cold dishes, can cause severe illness or even fatalities in the elderly. The FSIC has specific information on preparing and delivering food for the elderly.

If you’re planning on ordering an extra dish for an elderly neighbour when you next get takeaway, remember to check beforehand whether the person has any allergies or specific dietary requirements. 

“Then when you drop off this food, let the person know it is coming so it isn’t left on the doorstep,” says Lydia. “And observe social distancing of at least 1.5 metres.”  

She says some elderly people might be unsure how to use a microwave. “Make sure the person knows how to defrost any frozen food in the fridge or microwave and how to reheat the food all the way through to 75 degrees Celsius in their microwave, oven or the stove top,” she says. 

“They should put any leftovers straight in the fridge once the meal has stopped steaming, and eat the meal or freeze it within 24 hours.”

If transporting food some distance before dropping off, Lydia says it is important to ensure perishable food is kept at five degrees or cooler, and that hot food is kept at 60 degrees Celsius or hotter, to avoid harmful bacteria. 

If you’ve prepared a meal at home, it’s best to refrigerate it overnight – or make sure it is cold – then pack in a cooler with ice for transportation. 

There are also other ways you can help vulnerable community members access healthy food. As well as offering to do someone’s shopping, you could offer to order home-delivered groceries online if they’re not computer savvy. Or you could help them contact organisations such as Meals On Wheels and Foodbank which can also help supply food for those who can’t get out.