Food Delivery Safety

Mail-order food, subscription meal kits, home-delivered groceries, and restaurant deliveries can be convenient. Make sure food safety is part of the package, too. Home-delivered food, like all food, must be handled properly to prevent food poisoning.

Handling delivered food safely is important for everyone, but especially if you are buying food for someone who is more likely to get food poisoning:

  • adults aged 65 and older,
  • children younger than age 5,
  • people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness (weakened immune system), and
  • pregnant people.

Meal Kits and Other Shipped Food

Food shipped to your home needs to stay at a safe temperature to prevent the growth of germs that could make you sick. This includes mail-order food and subscription meal kits.

Before Ordering Food for Delivery

Ask questions first. Research companies and call customer service to ask about food safety practices.

Ask how the company responds if food is delivered at an unsafe temperature or is otherwise not safe to eat. Find out if the company provides information with each shipment or delivery on safe handling and preparation of food, including cooking temperatures.

Safe Food Delivery and Receipt

Arrange for delivery when someone is at home so perishable foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy can be quickly stored in the refrigerator or freezer instead of being left outside until someone is home. If you can’t be there in person, see if a neighbor can store the food until you return.

Find a safe space for delivery if no one can be at home when food arrivesFood should be delivered to a cool, shaded, and secure location where pests and rodents won’t be able to get it. Let the company know where you would like them to leave your box.

Examine the items and packaging to ensure they are intact.

  • Make sure the company used insulated packaging and materials such as dry ice or frozen gel packs to keep perishable food cold in transit.
  • Look for labels that say “Keep Refrigerated” or “Keep Frozen” if you ordered perishable food.

Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of perishable food when it arrives.

  • Perishable food that has been shipped should arrive frozen, partially frozen with ice crystals still visible, or at least as cold as it would be in a refrigerator (40°F or below). Even if a perishable food product is smoked, cured, vacuum-packed, or fully cooked, it still must be kept cold.

Store perishable food at a safe temperature. After you make sure perishable food was delivered at a safe temperature (40°F or below), store it in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible until you are ready to prepare it.

Notify the company if food arrives above 40°F. Don’t eat any of the food, or even taste it, to see if it is safe. Food can be unsafe and still taste, look, and smell OK. When in doubt, throw it out.

Local Grocery Deliveries

Milk, meat, cut fruit, and other perishable foods delivered from a local store or farm also need to stay at a safe temperature. Hot food should arrive hot, and cold food should arrive cold. Food should not be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the outside temperature is 90°F or warmer. During delivery, hot and cold foods should be kept separate from each other.

Before Ordering Food From a Local Grocery Store for Delivery

Ask questions first. Check the grocery store or delivery service website or call them to learn what they are doing to keep food safe before and during deliveries.

Safe Food Delivery and Receipt

Arrange for delivery when someone is at home so perishable foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy can be quickly stored in the refrigerator or freezer instead of being left outside until someone is home. If you can’t be there in person, see if a neighbor can store the food until you return.

Be aware of delivery times. If your delivery includes perishable food, be aware of how long it is kept out at room temperature. Perishable food that has been sitting out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if it’s 90°F or warmer outside, can make you sick. Germs that cause food poisoning multiply quickly when food is in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.

Store perishable food at a safe temperature. Refrigerate it at 40°F or below or put it in the freezer as soon as possible until you are ready to eat or prepare it.

Local Restaurant Deliveries

Check inspection scores. Check a restaurant’s inspection report at your health department’s website or ask the health department for a copy of the report.

Be aware of delivery times. Cooked meals can make you sick if they sit out for more than 2 hours, or as little as 1 hour if it’s 90°F or warmer outside. Delivered restaurant meals should be eaten right away or refrigerated if they contain a cooked or cold product, such as a salad of fresh cut fruit or a grain and vegetable bowl with grilled chicken.

If you have leftovers or are saving a hot food delivery for another day, refrigerate within 2 hours. Make sure you know how long your leftovers will keep in the fridge or freezerexternal icon.

Safe Food Handling at Home

Wash your hands and kitchen utensils. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after handling any food and before eating. Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water after using them.

Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate foods to avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods, and use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for these ingredients.

Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of foods and temperaturesexternal icon.

Report a Foodborne Illness

If you think a food delivered to your home has made someone sick, please contact your local health department to report the illness. Give them information about the order and what symptoms you are experiencing. Ask to speak with the environmental health specialist, or sanitarian, about a possible food problem. Refer to your state health department website to find more information about how to contact your local health department.

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Family in a kitchen preparing food

Read other food safety features to learn more about protecting yourself and your loved ones from food poisoning.