Keeping home delivered foods safe

Safe storage of home delivered foods can keep food borene illness off your menu.

Bento box with rice and shrimp.

As our population ages, there is more and more need for home delivery of meals for those that are home bound. This is an area in which food safety should be considered, particularly when stored foods are delivered for others to consume. As we grow older, our immune system becomes weaker, therefore, contracting a foodborne illness becomes easier. Extra care in preparation, delivery and storage should be given to meals for older adults.

Michigan State University Extension always encourages proper hand washing during food preparation and delivery. There are many aspects to consider when keeping food safe, but washing hands properly is the first line of defense for all contact with food.

Home delivered food is generally prepared in a licensed kitchen and delivered in a clean vehicle. It is stored in a cooler to keep cold foods cold or in a hot thermal container to keep hot foods hot. Each home receives their meal within the required two-hour period. It is now up to the recipients to keep the food safe.

As a recipient of home delivered meals, it is important to keep food out of the temperature danger zone (40 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit), allowing no more than two hours without heat or refrigeration. If you are a recipient of home delivered foods, enjoy your meal when it arrives. Any leftovers should be properly stored and reheated no more than seven days after you received it.

If you do store the food, use shallow food storage containers. Label and date each item so that it can be used within the seven-day time limit. Place all foods in the refrigerator in a single layer. If foods are stacked, it may take too long to cool, creating an environment that encourages bacterial growth. Go through your stored foods often and throw out anything that is outdated or showing signs of spoilage. Some foods may be able to be frozen for eating at a later date. If you are freezing food, make sure to use freezer containers that have a tight seal. Also, leave head space for expansion in the freezer and date and label all foods.

It is now time to reheat and make it safe to eat. Thaw foods in a refrigerator or a microwave, and never on the counter. Reheat foods to 165 F, stirring often to be sure the heat is evenly distributed and check with a food thermometer to ensure it reached a food safe temperature. This takes the guesswork out, and makes sure you are handling the food properly. Missing any of these steps can contribute to a food borne illness.

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