Handling Mail Order and Ready-To Eat Food Safety

Food is an important part of any celebration, and that is especially true on holidays and other special events. When it comes to food, options include ordering from catalogs, gourmet web sites or television shopping channels as well as picking up prepared meals from the supermarket or taking advantage of home grocery delivery.

If not properly handled, stored or prepared, food items can become contaminated with microorganisms that may cause foodborne illnesses. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when ordering foods.

Mail Order/Online Food Deliveries

The most important safety precaution is to make sure you are ordering from a reputable company. If you are ordering perishable food, either make sure someone will be home to accept the delivery or have the food sent to your workplace so you can immediately get it into the refrigerator. If you are sending food as a gift, let the recipient know that it is coming so someone will be there to receive it.

When ordering frozen foods, make sure they are properly packed with a cold source such as an ice pack or dry ice to maintain safe temperature. Perishable foods should be shipped via overnight delivery to make sure they stay cold.

Frozen food should be stored at 0°F and thawed carefully either in a refrigerator or as part of the cooking process, not at room temperature. If perishable food arrives warm (above 40°F), notify the company and do not consume the food.

Ready-to-Eat Meals

Ordering groceries or pre-cooked meals from a local store or restaurant is a great time-saver for today’s busy lifestyles.  

If ordering groceries, make sure you can pick up or receive the food in time to get it into proper storage while it is still at a safe temperature. Don’t arrange a food delivery on a day when you know you will be home later than usual, as perishable foods need to be kept at or below 40°F.

When ordering or picking up pre-cooked foods from a deli or restaurant, take them home right away and store them in the refrigerator if you will not eat them immediately. Prepared foods need to be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165°F before eating.