With the growing popularity of food delivery service in recent years, consumers can enjoy food at home anytime by ordering food over the phone or online food-delivery platform, which way reduces their frequency of eating out. However, if either the time and temperature control for the food is inadequate in the process of delivery, or the food is handled incorrectly, it is susceptible to pathogenic contamination to cause foodborne diseases.
Food safety risks of food delivery
Takeaway meals are prepared at a food establishment in advance, so it may take some time for the premises operator to notify a courier platform to pick it up. Additionally, if the weather is unstable or the delivery person is handling too many orders at the same time, the foods are likely extended for delivery. Still, takeaway foods are mostly perishable because of rich in protein and moisture. Microorganisms in food tend to multiply rapidly while exposing in temperature danger zone (between 5°C and 60°C) for prolonged time; consequently, this may cause food poisoning. In order to decrease the potential risks of food safety during delivery, the takeaway foods should be adequately protected. For instance, hot food should be kept above 60°C whereas cold food at 4°C or lower. Thus, food temperature and delivery time should be strictly controlled to ensure the takeaway foods are safe for consumption.
Tips for consumers to pick a food ordering and delivery service
Choose and place orders with legitimate or licenced food establishments. Always check whether or not the food ordering platforms display complete information in regard to food establishments (e.g. name, phone number, address and menu);
Select nearby food establishments due to shorten the delivery distance and make sure the process taking less than an hour;
Check the holding temperatures of takeaway foods, and note whether it is delivered properly. For examples, hot food should be kept in an insulated carrier and ready-to-eat fresh food in a cooler box;
Pay attention to whether the delivery person is in good health, and the equipment for delivery is clean and well-maintained;
When the delivery arrives, carefully examine the outer packaging of the food. If in doubt about the safety and hygiene conditions of food, do not accept the delivery. Notify the food establishment or the delivery staff about the issue at once;
Handle the delivery food item properly and consume it as soon as possible. If it is not consumed immediately, store it under proper conditions and follow the principle of ‘hot food is kept hot, and cold food is kept cold’;
Keep leftovers in a fridge and reheat thoroughly before eat. Do not refrigerate any unconsumed reheated leftovers again.
Besides the above-mentioned important points, the public can call the Food Safety Hotline (2833 8181) to timely report and express food safety concerns. Food delivery service providers are required to ensure the safety and hygiene of food during delivery; also, they need to keep all records, such as the invoices of incoming and outgoing products. The industry should refer to the “Hygiene Guidelines on Online Food Ordering and Delivery Service” (Chinese version only), “Guide on Hygiene Practices - Online Food Ordering and Takeaway Food Delivery Service” and “Guide on Hygiene Practices - Using Online Food Ordering Platforms and Providing Food Delivery Service (F&B Industry)”, which are practical guidelines established by the Municipal Affairs Bureau for all involved stakeholders to know about the standards of food safety control and hygiene practices for food delivery.