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a woman driver picks up a fast-food order at a restaurant's drive-through window

Pick up foods, but don’t pick up an illness

In our last blog, we discussed the four core principles of safe food handling. Now, let’s focus on carry-out, prepared foods.

Many of us have days packed with activity, and often find it hard to carve out time to prepare meals from scratch. That holds true even as more of us work from home and practice safe, social distancing to help stem the COVID-19 outbreak. So, an increasingly popular option for filling that meal menu is picking up prepared foods from a restaurant or store.

That doesn’t mean we throw food safety practices out the car window.

It remains vitally important that we follow proper handling of our take-out meals (and the leftovers we might have) to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. So, what does that mean in the age of curbside delivery?

  1. Wash your hands as soon as you arrive home and prior to eating your meal. The same rules we’ve heard for weeks now still apply: 20 seconds of scrubbing with warm, soapy water.
  2. Keep the hot foods hot! Don’t let foods sit out on the table or kitchen counter for more than two hours. If you are not planning on eating right away, you can refrigerate the meal and then reheat meats to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit just before serving. Or, you can hold the meal in a hot oven or warming tray set to a temperature of 140 degrees.
  3. Set your refrigerator to cool at 40 degrees or below, and refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers as soon as possible but always within two hours. And remember from our last blog, refrigerate foods within one hour when the outside temperature is 90 degrees or hotter. The clock starts ticking the minute you pick up a meal.
  4. Safely reheat any leftovers, keeping these guidelines in mind:
    • Reheat foods containing meat or poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees (always check using a food thermometer).
    • Bring soups to a boil when reheating.
    • Set your oven temperature to at least 325 degrees to reheat foods.
    • Cover and rotate foods reheated in a microwave, and consult your microwave owner’s manual for recommended times (power levels vary by model).

Using curbside pickup is a way we can safely leave our homes, enjoy a change of scenery, and get a good meal. Remember, though, a foodborne illness can always come along for the ride, if you don’t follow basic food safety practices.

RESOURCES

There are a lot of great resources to help guide you on how to handle food safety, including:

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