Meal kit subscription services and mail-order food were gaining traction before the advent of COVID-19 but the pandemic-caused shutdown boosted their popularity. Although intrepid food shoppers were donning masks and waiting in line at supermarket doors, so they could do their own shopping, others chose to have the market’s personal shoppers do it for them and have the groceries delivered to their door. And those who could afford it called their favorite neighborhood restaurants and ordered takeout. What this meant was convenience was king, but with that convenience came the possibility of food poisoning being delivered to the door.
Even though vaccines and careful social distancing have lessened the possibility of contracting COVID-19, food delivery and meal kit subscriptions remain as popular as ever. But this doesn’t mean you have to open your door to food poisoning; not if you take the following proactive measures.
It doesn’t hurt to ask. On the contrary, where food is concerned, it can hurt not to. Before clicking on that order button, pick up the phone, call customer service, and
Ask Meal Kit Delivery Companies what their food safety practices are and how they respond in cases where the food is delivered at unsafe temperatures or is found to be unsafe to eat for other reasons.
Ask Supermarkets what steps they take to keep food safe before as well as during deliveries. Food should not be kept at room temperature, for even two hours, or even worse, transported in hot vehicles so also ask about delivery times,
Ask Restaurants the same questions but take it a step further and check the restaurant’s latest inspection report.
In the case of grocery and food service deliveries, try to time your orders so you’ll be home to receive them. But if this isn’t possible, and the order contains dairy, eggs, meat, or other perishables, give a family member or trustworthy neighbor the key so they put them in the refrigerator until you get home. In cases where refrigeration isn’t needed, ask them to place the box in a shaded area of your yard.
If you are at home when the meal kits arrive, check the packaging. Are they labeled ‘Keep Refrigerated’ or ‘Do Not Thaw’? Such items should be packed in frozen gel packs or dry ice while in transit. If they are not, don’t take any chances, call customer service and arrange to return them.
When grocery store orders arrive, use a food thermometer to check the temperature of perishable foods. If they are delivered at a temperature higher than 40 degrees, they may smell and look fine but don’t even taste them to find out. Either return them to the supermarket or throw them out.
Do Your Part
Perishable foods can spread bacteria to ready-to-eat meals, so as soon as you get home, unpack your grocery delivery and separate meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood from the rest in order to prevent cross-contamination. And since their juices can leak out, store each in a food storage bag or sealed container before placing it in the refrigerator or freezer.
But don’t assume they will keep just because they’re in the refrigerator. The microorganisms that cause food poisoning have a sweet spot in which they thrive, and it’s actually a broad spot – more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and less than 140 degrees. This makes it the danger zone as far as food poisoning is concerned. So make it a practice to always check the thermostats in your refrigerator. According to the FDA, you should make sure the cold area is set below 40 degrees and the freezer is at zero or below.
What If It’s Too Late?
If after eating food that was delivered to your door you or someone in your home gets sick, and you suspect it’s a case of food poisoning, contact your local health department to report it. And then call a lawyer for food poisoning to find out if you have a legal claim for a lawsuit.