Grab-and-Go with a Side of Safety

Food safety should be top of mind, no matter where food is consumed.
Fresh salad in a grab-and-go container

Grab-and-go convenience choices are increasing to meet the need to eat food outside the cafeteria or dining hall—between classes, in common areas, outdoors or before activities. It also brings food safety challenges, but following these tips promotes safety, no matter where food is consumed.

Maintain time and temperature control

Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods require proper holding and temperature conditions to prevent bacterial overgrowth and foodborne illness. Here are some important things to know if you are transporting a TCS food:

  • Don’t let the food remain in the danger zone (41°F-135°F) for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F)
  • Use appropriate holding equipment
  • Full coolers don’t stay cold as long, so only pack what you need
  • Cold foods should be held at an internal temperature of 41°F (5°C) or below
  • Hot foods should be held at an internal temperature of 135°F (57°C) or above
  • Transport and store hot food in an insulated container until serving
  • Food temperature should be checked at least every 4 hours 

Prevent cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance to another. To avoid this, make sure to pack food in the proper order:

  • Ready-to-eat food (top)
  • Seafood
  • Whole cuts of beef and pork
  • Ground meat and ground fish
  • Whole and ground poultry (bottom)

Use utensils and single-use disposable gloves for serving. Consider using pre-portioned or wrapped items for grab and go. Keep carriers off the ground during transportation by keeping them up on chairs, desks or tables. 

Clean and sanitize food contact surfaces

Any surface where food will be served or consumed should be properly cleaned and sanitized first. This includes carts, utensils, equipment, desks, tables and serving stations. Storage containers also must be cleaned and sanitized after every use.

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