Safety for Delivered Meals
By Sara Butler
It’s the time of year when people give, and part of that giving may include home-delivered meals to those in need. Maybe you know someone who just had a baby or an older friend that could use some home cooking a couple of days a week. Giving food to others, or receiving it yourself, is always a great gesture. However, there are some things you need to be aware of in order to stay safe and keep others safe too. This is good information to keep in mind at your family holiday buffet!
The intentions behind delivered meals are always good ones, but you have to be careful and keep safety in mind. Any meal, whether hot or cold, needs to be handled correctly to keep people from getting sick. Perishable food must always be handled correctly in order to keep everyone healthy and happy. Avoid cross contamination.
What You Should Know
If you leave any kind of perishable food out at room temperature for too long, it can give bacteria a chance to grow. These include strains of Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. These different kinds of bacteria have the chance to grow best between the temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, in as little as 20 minutes these bacteria can double in number, which is why this temperature range is often referred to the “danger zone.”
Any food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown away. If it’s hotter than 90 degrees, that cuts the time by half to only one hour. If you aren’t going to eat food right away, it needs to go into the refrigerator.
How to Refrigerate Properly
In order to refrigerate food properly you should take the following steps:
- Store food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below
- Use shallow containers
- Divide food into small portions or cut into smaller portions
- Remove stuffing from any poultry before you store it in the refrigerator
If the food you have delivered is already cold, then you should put it in the refrigerator within two hours, or pop it into the freezer if you’re not planning to eat it in a couple of days or less.
When you want to heat your food up again, make sure you:
- Reheat it to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Bring soup or any kind of gravy to a rolling boil
- Heat food evenly if using a microwave by rotating it