Take-out and Delivery Orders: Don’t Neglect Food Safety
PART 1: Contamination Prevention
By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety
We are all too familiar with the nationwide dining restrictions due to COVID-19 and the resurgence of take-out and delivered foods that followed. As always in the foodservice industry, temperature controls and contamination prevention should be top of mind, whether meals are for sit-down dining or To Go. Part 1 of this series addresses measures to prevent contamination of take-out and delivered meals, and Part 2 will address Time and Temperature Controls for this alternative delivery method, which carries its own set of risks.
Even though the FDA does not specify safety measures for alternative meal delivery methods, FDA 2017 Food Code does address “preventing food contamination from miscellaneous sources.” Section 3-307.11 states, FOOD shall be protected from contamination that may result from a factor or source not specified under Subparts 3-301—306, which could include meal tampering from delivery drivers or other persons, and any environmental contaminants in the take-out and delivery process. Unsanitary vehicles, poor hygiene or mishandling of food packages are also potential risks in these situations.
Special consideration should be made for using protective labeling on packaging. Tamper evident or tamper resistant labels are a form of food defense at the retail level, and a best practice to prevent food contamination after it has been safely prepared by the food establishment. It also sends a strong message to consumers that the food establishment is proactive in protecting their meal, and that food safety is top of mind from preparation to consumption.
Consider the following tips to protect your prepared foods from contamination, and keep your customers safe:
- Prevent food tampering: Secure a tamper-evident label over the opening of the delivery container or bag to protect it from tampering.
- Help identify package security: Use a tamper-evident label on package flap or container opening. A torn label or broken seal alerts the customer that the food security may have been breached.
- Deliver foods in clean vehicles, wrapped and securely packaged to prevent dust, dirt, physical contamination of the food packaging.
- Encourage drivers to keep vehicles clean and to practice good personal hygiene, paying special attention to washing hands frequently and thoroughly.
Meal orders received online for pickup or delivery by third parties 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.
Continue reading to learn more on food delivery and temperature control.