Take-out and Delivery Orders: Don’t Neglect Food Safety
PART 2: Time and Temperature Controls
By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety
As restaurants and catering services rush to meet a growing demand for prepared foods for customer pickup or meals delivered to homes, dormitories and workplaces, it is important to understand unique food safety risks involved. Contamination prevention measures were addressed in Part 1 of this series, including use of tamper evident and tamper resistant labeling to protect meals when using these delivery methods. Part 2 addresses protecting foods from time and temperature abuse, when sold for takeout or delivery by retail food establishments.
Ready-to-eat TCS meals (Time and Temperature Control for Safety) 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 a kitchen or delivery vehicle.
Keep the following safety tips in mind to protect your foods from temperature abuse and to minimize pathogen growth during the takeout and delivery process:
- Keep foods protected from temperature abuse: Plan your preparation times in coordination with pick up times, to avoid time delays that may contribute to temperature abuse.
- Do not allow hot or cold prepared foods to sit for extended periods at room temperature before delivery or pick-up. Load hot foods from your oven or heating equipment directly into insulated food carriers at the time of pick-up. Keep cold foods refrigerated at 41˚F or below before delivery or pickup.
Apply a pre-printed label to food containers to guide consumers in storing food they don’t plan to eat right away. U.S. Department of Agriculture (fsis.usda.gov) suggests these tips:
- 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.
- Deliver cold foods in clean, refrigerated vehicles at 41˚F or below. If lacking refrigeration, pack foods 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.
- Keep hot foods hot, maintaining a temperature of 135˚F or higher. Aluminum foil or newspapers surrounding a pan of hot food will not be enough to keep them at 135˚F or higher during transport. Electric food delivery bags or insulated carriers can help you maintain hot food temperatures
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 food service operation or a delivery service, put these temperature controls in place to keep your business running smoothly and safely.