Food Safety for Home Delivered Meals

Food Safety for Home Delivered Meals

Many people receive home delivered meals from churches, social organizations, senior assistance groups, or healthcare organizations. Hot or cold ready-prepared meals are perishable and can cause illness when mishandled. Proper handling is essential to ensure the food is safe to eat.

The “Danger Zone”

Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness.

Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.” Perishable foods left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded. If temperatures are above 90 °F perishable foods should not be left out longer than one hour. Discard food after one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F.

Refrigerate delivered meals if you don’t plan to eat them immediately. You can reheat them when you are ready to eat. Follow these steps to refrigerate delivered meals:

  • Store food in a refrigerator at 40 °F or below
  • Divide food or cut into smaller portions.
  • Use shallow containers to store food.
  • Remove any stuffing from whole cooked poultry before refrigerating.
  • Foods delivered cold should be eaten within 2 hours or refrigerated or frozen for eating at another time.



You may wish to reheat your meal, whether it was purchased hot and then refrigerated or purchased cold initially.

  • Reheat food to 165 °F using a food thermometer. Bring soup or gravy to a rolling boil.
  • If using a microwave oven to reheat food, cover food and rotate the dish so that food heats evenly. This prevents any “cold spots” from harboring bacteria. Allow standing time. Consult your owner’s manual for complete instructions. Heat food until it reaches at least 165 °F throughout.



Source: Foodsafety.gov