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Eating Out, Bringing In

Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier and more enjoyable to let someone else do the cooking. And for today’s older adults there are many eating options. All of these options, however, do have food safety implications that you need to be aware of.

Bringing In: Complete Meals to Go and Home Delivered Meals

When you want to eat at home but don’t feel like cooking or aren’t able to, where do you turn?

  • Many convenience foods, including complete meals to go, are increasingly popular.
  • Purchased from grocery stores, deli stores or restaurants, some meals are hot and some are cold.
  • Ordering home delivered meals from restaurants or restaurant-delivery services is an option many consumers like to take advantage of.
  • And of course, for those who qualify, there are programs like Meals on Wheels that provide a ready-prepared meal each day.

Hot or cold ready-prepared meals are perishable and can cause illness when mishandled. Proper handling is essential to ensure the food is safe.

The 2-Hour Rule
Harmful bacteria can multiply in the “Danger Zone” (between 40 and 140°F). So remember the 2-hour rule. Discard any perishable foods left at room temperature longer than 2 hours.

(When temperatures are above 90°F, discard food after 1 hour!)

Putting the 2-hour rule into action:

HOT FOODS: When you purchase hot cooked food, keep it hot. Eat and enjoy your food with 2 hours to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying

If you are not eating within 2 hours—and you want to keep your food hot—keep your food in the oven set at a high enough temperature to keep the food at or above 140°F. (Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.) Side dishes, like stuffing, must also stay hot in the oven. Covering food will help keep it moist.

However, your cooked food will taste better if you don’t try to keep it in the oven for too long. For best taste, refrigerate the food and then reheat when you are ready to eat. Here’s how:

  • Divide meat or poultry into small portions to refrigerate or freeze.
  • Refrigerate or freeze gravy, potatoes, and other vegetables in shallow containers.
  • Remove stuffing from whole cooked poultry and refrigerate.

COLD FOODS should be eaten within 2 hours or refrigerated or frozen for eating at another time.

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