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How to organize a meal at home without risk to the guests?

Text updated on 2020-06-03

A meal can be prepared, served and shared without contaminating the guests. Family meals or meals in restaurants have been a proven source of contamination, so precautions must be taken. The most important thing is to cook and serve with a mask and disinfected hands, and to keep guests at a safe distance from each other. Finally, it is preferable to plan the meal outside. If this is not possible, ventilate by opening the windows.

Preparing the meal

It's easy to prepare coronavirus-free food. The precautions to be taken are the same as in a collective kitchen (restaurant, canteen, etc.): wash your hands well and put a mask on before cooking and before putting the dishes on the table (see Note).

During the meal

It is not so easy to avoid contamination between guests as they talk to each other, pass along food dishes, and breath in indoor spaces. The greater the number of people and the longer the meal lasts, the more the virus circulates in the area and the more susceptible guests may become. Let's look at some ways to avoid contamination between guests to be adapted according to the risk.


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This study discusses the fecal-oral route of transmission for SARS-CoV-2.

Yeo, C., Kaushal, S., & Yeo, D. (2020). Enteric involvement of coronaviruses: is faecal-oral transmission of SARS-CoV-2 possible? The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 5(4), 335-337.

One type of bovine coronavirus remains active for up to 14 days on lettuce stored at 4°C.

Mullis L, Saif LJ, Zhang Y, Zhang X, Azevedo MS. Stability of bovine coronavirus on lettuce surfaces under household refrigeration conditions. Food Microbiology. 2012 May;30(1):180-186.

SARS-CoV-2 is inactivated in 5 minutes at 70°C, but it resists well at 4°C.

Chin, A. W., Chu, J. T., Perera, M. R., Hui, K. P., Yen, H. L., Chan, M. C., ... & Poon, L. L. (2020). Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions. The Lancet Microbe, 1(1), e10.

In one restaurant, a person with the COVID-19 and pre-symptomatic contaminated at least two other people more than 2 meters away, who were eating at two adjacent tables. Note that the space was enclosed and that ventilation must have contributed to the spread of the viral particles.

Lu, J., Gu, J., Li, K., Xu, C., Su, W., Lai, Z., ... & Yang, Z. (2020). COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(7).

Several cases COVID-19 in January-February 2020 in South Korea were due to contamination following a family meal or at a restaurant/café.

Kong, I., Park, Y., Woo, Y., Lee, J., Cha, J., Choi, J., ... & Kim, T. (2020). Early epidemiological and clinical characteristics of 28 cases of coronavirus disease in South Korea. Osong Public Health Res Perspect, 11(1), 8-14.

Several people from the same family were contaminated after two family reunion dinners.

Ye, F., Xu, S., Rong, Z., Xu, R., Liu, X., Deng, P., ... & Xu, X. (2020). Delivery of infection from asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 in a familial cluster. International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Several cases of contamination at family meals in China.

Liu, Y., Eggo, R. M., & Kucharski, A. J. (2020). Secondary attack rate and superspreading events for SARS-CoV-2. The Lancet, 395(10227), e47.

Further reading

Can SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus be caught by eating?

How do you decontaminate groceries?

How long is the coronavirus infectious?

Is the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus resistant to cold or heat?

How can we improve the hygiene of our environment?