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.
Nov. 05, 2020
- Post-game plays: Food safety tips for leftovers. FoodSafety.gov. https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/2017/02/post-game-plays.html. Accessed Aug. 20, 2018.
- Basics for handling food safely. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/basics-for-handling-food-safely. Accessed Aug. 20, 2018.
- The core four practices. Partnership for Food Safety Education. http://www.fightbac.org/food-safety-basics/the-core-four-practices/. Accessed Aug. 21, 2018.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 2, 2018.