Safe refrigeration at home and away

Keeping leftover restaurant food safe from foodborne illness.

We have all gone out to dinner and left the restaurant with unfinished portions of our meal, proceeding to then pick up a few groceries and other needed items. What we may not pay attention to, is that by the time we arrive home it may have been two hours or more. Is it safe to eat our left over dinner? Without proper refrigeration for more than two hours, it should be thrown out.

When we purchase a meal, just like anything else – we feel we paid for it and we should take it home to get our money’s worth. Michigan State University Extension recommends following FDA guidelines to refrigerate food within two hours from the time it has been served. Refrigeration should be in a unit that is kept consistently cold at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Leaving food in a car or storing it in the back room because it feels cold can provide the perfect temperatures for bacteria to grow.

Always cool leftovers quickly and promptly, and store them in shallow containers in a refrigerator. Keep a cooler in the car for storing leftovers from restaurant’s and when purchasing items that need to remain cold or frozen when shopping. By planning ahead and anticipating, you can bring food items home by having ice packs in the cooler. This will keep you prepared in keeping food safe whether it is from the grocery store of leftovers from the restaurant.

You can read more about the length of storage for particular foods through the FDA recommended refrigeration resources. This chart can guide you in proper food refrigeration.

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