Here in the metro area, an abundance of restaurants is the perfect solution to those meal times when you just don’t feel like cooking. Particularly this time of year, however, when temperatures are cold, and you just don’t feel like bundling up your family and facing the winter weather, placing a delivery or take-out order is likely to be an attractive option. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), take-out and delivery orders, while convenient, pose some special food safety concerns. Before you place that next meal order for carry-out or delivery, take a minute to review the following safety tips relating to transported food:
- "To keep hot foods safe, keep them at 140 °F or above. Cold foods must be kept at 40 °F or below. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 °F. Discard all perishable foods left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
- If you are not eating the take-out or delivered food immediately, follow these guidelines to make sure the food remains safe for you to eat at a later time.
- Once food is cooked, it should be held hot, at an internal temperature of 140 °F or above. Just keeping food warm (between 40 and 140 °F) is not safe. Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the food. A preheated oven, chafing dishes, preheated warming trays, or slow cookers may be used.
- If you plan to eat at a later time, take-out or delivered food should be divided into smaller portions or pieces, placed in shallow containers, and refrigerated.
- Cold foods should be kept at 40 °F or below.
- Refrigerate perishable foods as soon as possible, always within 2 hours after purchase or delivery. If the food is in air temperatures above 90 °F, refrigerate within 1 hour.
- When take-out or delivered food is purchased cold for an outdoor event—like a picnic, sporting event, or outdoor buffet—a cooler with ice is a practical alternative to a refrigerator. The cooler should be packed with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Keep the cooler in the shade when possible.
- Remember the 2-hour rule when food is removed from the cooler. Discard all perishable foods that have been left out of the coolers longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in air temperatures above 90 °F.
- Discard all perishable foods left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in air temperatures above 90 °F. This includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant. Some exceptions to this rule are foods such as cookies, crackers, bread, and whole fruits.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap or cover the food.
- Reheat foods containing meat or poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 °F. Always use a food thermometer to verify the internal temperature of the food.
- If reheating in the oven, set oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.
- Reheating in slow cookers and chafing dishes is NOT recommended because foods may stay in the ‘Danger Zone’ (between 40 and 140 °F) too long.
- When reheating food in the microwave oven, cover and rotate food for even heating. Always allow standing time before checking the internal temperature of the food.
- Consult your microwave oven owner’s manual for recommended times and power levels."
Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
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