This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by P.H. Schmutz, HGIC Food Safety Specialist, and E.H. Hoyle, Extension Food Safety Specialist, Clemson University. (New 08/00.)
Deli sandwich meats, rotisserie chicken, hamburgers, Mexican food, Chinese food and pizza are all examples of take-out foods that have become a regular part of our American lifestyle. How should these foods be handled to make sure they are safe to eat? The same basic food safety rules apply to prepared foods bought from a deli or restaurant as to those prepared in the home.
Refrigerate leftovers promptly in shallow, covered containers. Foods stored longer may begin to spoil or become unsafe to eat. For longer storage, wrap tightly in moisture- and vapor-proof freezing materials and store in the freezer. Foods kept frozen longer than recommended are safe, but their quality may not be as good. Salads made with mayonnaise do not freeze well.
|Cooked meat or poultry||3 to 4 days|
|Fried chicken||3 to 4 days|
|Pizza||3 to 4 days|
|Deli-sliced luncheon meats||3 to 5 days|
|Deli-prepared convenience foods such as egg, tuna and macaroni salads||
3 to 5 days
|Cooked meat or poultry dishes||3 to 6 months|
|Fried chicken||4 months|
|Deli-sliced luncheon meats||1 to 2 months|
|Deli-prepared convenience foods||3 to 4 months|
Foods that are served hot should be reheated thoroughly to a temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steamy. Soups and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil. Remove food from plastic wrap, styrofoam and plastic containers before reheating in the oven or microwave.
Pregnant women and individuals with chronic illnesses that result in weakened immune systems are more likely to be seriously affected by food-borne illnesses and need to be particularly cautious of certain ready-to-eat foods. Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne bacterium that can cause miscarriages in pregnant women and illness in newborns and individuals with weakened immune systems. These bacteria can be found in a variety of foods including unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses and some ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs or deli meats. At-risk individuals should avoid these latter foods unless they can be reheated until they are steaming hot.
Question: It’s tradition -- on the way to the football game, we pick up chicken and eat on it for a couple of hours before the game, put it in the back seat while we are at the game and then pull the food back out after the game. I now know that might not be safe, so what should we do?
Question: Late at night, our teenage children and their friends order pizza. They can never seem to remember to put it in the fridge before going to bed. Is it safe to eat the next day?
Answer: No, pizza is a perishable food and must be kept refrigerated. If the pizza is left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, it should be discarded
Question: At the office party, we had several pounds of deli meats left over. How should they be handled?
Answer: If deli meats were kept in the refrigerator and brought out only to replenish trays as needed, then they can safely be kept for later use.
For more information on the special needs of pregnant women and the chronically ill, request HGIC 3640, Food Safety for Pregnant Women & Their Babies, and HGIC 3643, Food Safety for the Chronically Ill.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. (Oct. 2004) Safe Handling of Take Out Foods. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Safe_Handling_Take-Out_Foods/index.asp
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.