How to handle takeout and drive-thru foods safely

When bringing home your favorite foods, follow these simple steps to keeping the food and you safe.


Takeout and drive-thru food options are more popular than ever as everyone adapts to the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order that has closed the dine-in option at our favorite eateries. This type of meal choice helps to maintain social distancing and reduces the amount of food handling between preparation and service.

When bringing home your favorite foods, it’s important not to forget the simple steps to keeping these types of food safe.

Handling hot takeout and drive-thru foods

  • Eat or refrigerate your perishable takeout food within 2 hours of picking up (1 hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • If not eating your takeout right away, either:
    • Keep it hot, at least 140 F or higher.
    • Refrigerate and reheat to 165 F just before eating.

Handling cold takeout and drive-thru foods

  • Takeout or prepared cold foods should be kept at 40 F or below.
  • When traveling with cold foods, keep a cooler packed with ice or frozen gel packs to maintain the 40 F.
  • If cold perishable foods have been left out above 40 F for more than 2 hours, or above 90 F for more than 1 hour, throw them out.

Takeout foods can be kept for three to four days at 40 F or below. Handling food safely is important in reducing the risk of foodborne illness for you and your family.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), although there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by novel coronavirus, since the virus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces, it is always a good idea when ordering takeout or drive-thru meals to follow good food safety and personal hygiene practices. These include washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing or eating food, cleaning and sanitizing all food contact surfaces and washing hands after handling takeout food packaging.

Additionally, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ (CDC’s) control recommendations of not touching your eyes, nose and mouth, staying at home if you are sick, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow, then throwing the tissue in the trash.

If you have questions related to food handling, preparing and storage, you can browse the Michigan State University Extension website, Ask an Expert or call the MSU Extension Consumer Food Safety Hotline at 877-643-9882.

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