Online orders: Don’t let the rush to deliver divert attention from food safety
By: Cindy Rice, RS
As restaurants and catering services rush to meet a growing demand for prepared food delivered to homes, dormitories and workplaces, they risk more than their customers’ impatience. They risk making them sick.
Ready-to-eat meals carry potential dangers of bacterial growth or contamination at several points along the transaction. Salmonella and Campylobacter, for example, can proliferate at room temperature, whether in an unclean kitchen or in an unsanitary food carrier. Unwashed hands also raise the risk of contamination.
In this hyper-connected age, just one case of foodborne illness traced to your operation can do significant harm to your business’ reputation and bottom line. So, whether you run a foodservice operation or a delivery service, keep the following safety tips in mind to protect your customers and your business:
- Keep foods in the safe temperature zone. Do not allow hot or cold prepared foods to sit for an extended period at room temperature. Ensure that the temperatures of cold foods are maintained at 41˚F or below. Load hot foods from your oven or heating equipment directly into insulated food carriers. At the time of pick-up food temperatures should be 135˚F or higher when leaving your establishment
- Prevent food tampering. Secure a label over the opening of the delivery container or bag to protect it from tampering. Use a tamper-evident label that clearly indicates if food security has been breached.
- Help customers safety store and reheat leftovers: Apply a pre-printed label to food containers to guide consumers in storing food they don’t plan to eat right away.Consider these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (fsis.usda.gov):
- Serve food immediately or refrigerate at 41˚F or below.
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly at 41˚F or below.
- Reheat leftovers to 165˚F before serving.
- Discard foods that have been at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold during the delivery process to minimize bacterial growth.
- Foods should be delivered as quickly as possible after preparation, using the most direct routes feasible, in order to minimize time that prepared foods spend in the vehicle.
- Keep hot foods hot, maintaining a temperature of 135˚F or higher. Electric food delivery bags or insulated carriers can help you maintain hot food temperatures.
- For cold foods pack in clean food carriers or insulated coolers with sufficient ice or ice packs to maintain food temperatures at 41˚F or below. Keep carriers in the coolest part of the vehicle.
- Thoroughly clean and sanitize delivery carriers frequently.
- Encourage drivers to keep vehicles clean and to practice good personal hygiene, paying special attention to washing hands frequently and thoroughly.
Meal orders received from smartphones and delivered to doorsteps mark a major departure from tradition. But food safety basics remain largely unchanged. If you follow these safety strategies as you deliver great-tasting food, consumers will continue to tap your app when they’re hungry and ready to order.