Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater SF where the site’s editors answer specific or baffling dining requests from readers and friends. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
Dear Eater SF,
Very grateful for all you are doing to help us support the restaurant and food industries right now. I’m trying to find info about the safety of eating sushi and other non-cooked items during coronavirus. Any details on that?
Dear Fish Suspicious,
Thanks for the specific question, which in fact, isn’t too nervous at all. Everyone desperately wants to support local restaurants right now, yet there’s so much we don’t know about how the virus might be transmitted. But what is Friday night without takeout sushi? In fact, I personally ordered from Hamano last weekend, before my boyfriend made me watch the new Picard series. (Review: Sushi, ten out of ten. But not even the great Sir Patrick Stewart could keep me awake for Star Trek.)
The authorities don’t directly answer this question. In general, the new coronavirus (COVID-19) primarily spreads from person to person, when someone coughs or sneezes within six feet. There is currently no evidence to support the transmission of the virus through the consumption food, according to both the CDC and the FDA, Eater National offers some reassuring tips for how to manage the surfaces of packaging when you order takeout and delivery. I’m a professional chef, not a doctor, but from everything experts have said so far, the most important rules to follow in all dining circumstances are to avoid human contact, transfer food to your own plates and bowls, throw away the containers, and wash your hands before picking up those chopsticks.
Digging into fish fears, the concern with sushi is that like revenge, it’s a dish best served cold. Some people have been microwaving the shit out of their takeout in hopes that that might keep them safe, but keep in mind, while microwaving food can kill bacteria, and might kill the virus, even that is an extra precaution. It’s much more important to avoid human contact and contaminated surfaces. With good practices, food is considered low risk, whether cooked or raw.
Moreover, sushi restaurants tend to be meticulous when it comes to food safety standards like practices for scrubbing down and storing raw fish. At Sushi Nagai, the upscale omakase spot in Union Square, sushi master Tomonori Nagai is so old school, he even shaves his head. Sushi Nagai is offering a limited bento menu to go, which includes chirashi bowls, eel rolls, and waffle fish stuffed with sweet beans, a far swim from the usual tasting menu. But whether you go for one of the omakase stars or more affordable rolls, rest assured, takeout sushi is still low risk. Although of course, if you really want to fully avoid any risk, don’t order takeout and delivery at all.
- Is It Safe to Eat Takeout If You Microwave the Shit Out of It? [Eater SF]
- Is It Safe to Order Delivery During the Coronavirus Pandemic? [Eater National]
- Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide [Serious Eats]