Home Meal Deliveries and Restaurant Take-Outs
By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety
Consumers are ordering foods through take-out and delivery in greater numbers than ever before and they want to know it is safe.
Hot or cold ready-to-eat prepared meals can pose a food safety risk, if they are mishandled. These include the pre-ordered meals waiting for delivery or pick up from a food establishment, sometimes sitting out in the temperature danger zone at the restaurant for long periods of time. Campylobacter and Salmonella can multiply quickly in these cooked foods while waiting in the take-out area.
Whether it is a high end restaurant delivery of an individual meal, or pizzas and wings for a group, make sure that your conscientious food preparation procedures are not undermined by dangerous practices before pickup or during delivery. Keep these tips in mind, whether you are the food establishment preparing and making a meal, or the delivery service itself.
- Ensure that cold food temperatures are maintained at 41˚F or below before delivery
- Do not allow hot or cold prepared foods to sit for extended periods of time at room temperature before pickup or delivery
- Deliver cold foods in clean, refrigerated vehicles; or a clean food carrier or insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to maintain food temperatures at 41˚F or below. Keep carriers in the coolest part of your vehicle.
- Load hot foods from your ovens and heating equipment directly into insulated food carriers, in clean vehicles
- Keep hot foods hot during transport, maintaining temperatures of 135˚F or higher. Caution: Aluminum foil or newspapers alone surrounding pans of hot food will not be enough insulation to keep foods at 135˚F or higher during transportation
- For security reasons, consider attaching a tamper-evident label with your logo securely to a container or bag, to protect packages from tampering, and to indicate that food security has been breached if torn open.
- Pre-printed labels on food packages or containers can be helpful to consumers, especially if they are not going to eat the food right away. These consumer food handling messages from USDA can help ensure that foods are kept safe once delivered (fsis.usda.gov) :
- Serve immediately or refrigerate at 41˚ F or below
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly at 41˚ F or below
- Discard foods that have remained at room temperature for longer than 2 hours
Protect your foods’ quality and safety during the home meal delivery process, and customers will be sure to call you back for their next take-out meal.