I often bring home food from restaurants. Is it OK to leave food in the takeout containers?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

It's probably safe to leave food in takeout containers. The key is to store food in a shallow container that can be sealed when the food has cooled. These practices help limit bacteria.

Here's another safety tip: Don't let prepared food sit out — in your car or on the counter — for more than two hours. If you're someplace hot, where the temperature is more than 90 F (32 C), reduce that time to one hour. Bacteria can grow rapidly in food that's unrefrigerated. And some bacteria make a poison (toxin) that can make you ill, hence the term "food poisoning."

If you don't plan on eating takeout food immediately, you have two choices. You can keep it hot — internal temperature of 140 F (60 C) or higher — in an ovenproof dish in a preheated oven. Or you can divide the food into smaller portions, place it in shallow containers and refrigerate. Plan to reheat the food to a temperature of 165 F (74 C) just before serving.

Oct. 23, 2018 See more Expert Answers