As noted by the BBC’s coverage of the number of zero rated hygiene restaurants and takeaway businesses making their way into people’s homes, there is a duty to safeguard your customers – and it doesn’t just end in the kitchen. Just because someone doesn’t eat it in your restaurant, doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for the food that you deliver. Making sure that you, your staff and your courier are up to speed with the requirements for delivery food hygiene standards is an absolute must.

It’s obvious, right? You are a food business, of course you know your food hygiene rules – how to handle food in your kitchen, how to avoid contamination; which are the 14 allergens. But if you are a fast food delivery business this extends beyond your kitchen, to the food delivery courier, the time it takes for food to travel to its consumer and what it is like when it arrives.

What Are The Real Risks Of Improper Food Delivery?

Primarily, you are looking at food poisoning. Food poisoning is caused by bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli or a virus, such as norovirus. Whilst the effects are often mild, they can be life threatening for unborn babies, young children and anyone else with a low immune system, such as pregnant women or older people.

Bacteria can grow rapidly in certain conditions and so care in the processing, transportation, handling, storage, and serving of food is needed to reduce the risk of contamination.

Conditions that can encourage this bacteria to spread are:

  • Time – time you have cooked food in, and how long it has been since it was cooked or processed
  • Temperature – if food that needs to be chilled below 5°C isn’t, if food isn’t reheated sufficiently, if food is left too long at a warm temperature
  • Germs – from handling or contamination

All of these items can be monitored within your kitchen by adhering to the food standards agency guidelines, your own knowledge and through the training of your staff. Have a look at our article on food safety, storage and waste in commercial kitchens if you are concerned that you might be missing a trick.

But even if you’ve done everything you possibly can to make sure that your food has been handled, prepared, stored and cooked safely and hygienically, how do you make sure that it stays safe when it leaves the premises?

Packing And Transit Of Your Food Delivery

1. Separate hot and cold food

Putting hot food side by side with cold food will not only affect the state it arrives in…luke warm, but could be potentially dangerous as you risk hot food cooling down and cold food not being kept at the right temperature to prevent bacteria spreading.

2. Use Food Delivery Packaging

It is a difficult world that we are in with an increase in demand for food delivery at the same time as a war on industrial waste, single use plastic and unnecessary wrapping. However, in food delivery, the correct packaging will ensure that your food stays at the right temperature, and with that increase the safety of the food when it reaches its destination.

You don’t always have to compromise on the environment when it comes to packaging. There are some fantastic eco brands, such as vegware and biopac, that offer fantastic biodegradable solutions for food packaging and take away food cutlery. It may be more expensive, but there is no price that you can place on contributing towards saving our planet, and telling your customers that this is something that you are dedicated to is no bad thing.

You also need to make sure that your courier delivers food in an appropriately insulated and sealed carrier. Particularly if they are transporting at a time of very high or low temperatures, or busy times of dirty, fumey traffic. Look out for packaging that will seal your food in properly, preventing spillages and leaks as well as keeping hot items hot, and cold items cold

3. Transit time

Making sure that you don’t try to cover too wide a range for your food delivery service is not only to do with ensuring that the quality of your food remains perfect – that it isn’t jostled about over bumps and lumps and that it arrives piping hot – but also to do with leaving at risk food at temperatures that expose it to the possibility of bacteria spreading and contaminating your food, particularly that of:

  • Shellfish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy.

4. Hygiene

And talking of bacteria, make sure that all packaging is absolutely spotless and encourage your couriers to use hand sanitiser when delivering food.

Tampering By Your Courier

There are currently no rules and regulations imposed on food delivery couriers with regards to food safety. They do not have to be trained in food safety, nor, as far as we are aware, are they educated in the dangers of tampering with your food – as was highlighted by the shocking footage of a Zomato courier eating, resealing and then delivering somebody’s takeaway meal.

With this in mind, and depending on the courier service that you are using you need to feel sure that you are satisfied that any food leaving your premises won’t be tampered with until it arrives at your customer’s door.

In March this year, Zomato launched its tamper-proof packaging – something that, if your courier service doesn’t offer, you could request; or even look into using as part of your own packaging service.

Remember that preventing food contamination is your responsibility as well as the couriers – some couriers have reported that restaurants have roped them into sealing drinks orders at peak times – tempting as it may be, you need to ensure that occurrences like this will never happen under your watch..

Make Your Customers Aware Of The Risks Involved In Their Food

We aren’t saying that you need to put your customers off their food. No-one wants to be told that their food is dangerous. But, if you are a responsible, conscientious and committed food delivery provider and proud of your produce, you shouldn’t be scared of detailing when your food was made and any suggestions for how it should be stored and reheated if a person can’t finish it all at once.

It could be as simple as adding a leaflet in with your food delivery order saying where your produce is (generally) sourced, offering allergen awareness and details of how takeaway food can be stored, how long it can be kept for and recommended timings for reheating.

It’s also a nice touch in letting your customers know that you care that little bit more about their welfare and the quality of your food.

Train Your Staff

As ever, it is all very well knowing that you have read this article, but what about the rest of your team? Having strong food safety ethics run through your entire business is crucial and making sure everyone is on board and understands the risks involved in food delivery is crucial.

At the time of writing there appears to be no regulations or training for courier drivers, so do your research when looking for the right food courier. Make enquiries about their training, how they are educated in the risks of tampering or leaving food too long between deliveries and even ask for training to be instigated if you feel it necessary – what have you got to lose?

With the growing demand for food delivery, there will need to be a growing awareness in the risks involved in it – and with that the hope that a knowledge of the basic principles of food safety be made a requirement at each part of the food delivery process.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you are a food delivery business the buck doesn’t stop when food leaves your premises – it remains your responsibility until it is in the hands of your consumer. And even then, making sure you give them the right advice on how to eat, store and cook their food so that it doesn’t risk giving them food poisoning is crucial. You never know the circumstances of your consumer – their age, state of their immune system or basic hygiene knowledge – don’t let it be your food that is hits the headlines because it has caused serious harm through inappropriate packaging, transit or consumption.

Learn More

For more information on staying on top of best practice in your food business take a look at our latest guides:

Food Hygiene & Standards

Keeping Your Staff Allergen Aware

Commercial Kitchen Layouts & Utilities

Food Safety, Storage & Waste in a Commercial Kitchen

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