Food Donation: A Practical Look

We’ve created the following scenario to illustrate the types of food that could be donated and the time/temperature control guidelines for each.

CFR Caterers has several hotel pans full of food left over from breakfast service that they would like to donate. They have used the CFR Mobile App to locate an appropriate recipient who will be there to pick up in 30 minutes.  They are reviewing their time and temperature log to determine which of the following items are safe to donate:

  • One of the pans is missing a single scoop of scrambled eggs which was served by the catering company staff to a latecomer for breakfast.  It has been sitting in a chafing dish with a lit Sterno® and held at a temperature of 140˚F for the last 2 hours.  Can this food be donated? No. Any food that has been offered to the public is unsuitable for donation regardless of time or temperature considerations.
  • A second pan containing sausage links has not been served from at all. It is still covered in saran wrap and aluminum foil.  It has been on the serving line for an hour and held at a temperature of 120˚F.  Can this food be donated? Yes. This food can be donated as long as it is transported and reheated to 165˚F within the next 3 hours or chilled to 41˚F or below within 2 hours. Once chilled properly it can be stored at 41˚F or below for up to 7 days.
  • The hash browns in the third pan never made it out of the kitchen and have been held in a warming oven at 135˚F since they were brought to the conference hall 3 hours ago.   Can this food be donated? Yes. This food can be donated hot if served immediately or if cooled properly by the commercial food service establishment or pre-approved recipient organization. This food should be stored at 41˚F or below prior to donation.
  • A basket of bagels was sitting on the table next to the coffee for the entirety of the breakfast service (7a-11a).  Some are pre-sliced and others are whole.  Can this food be donated? No. These bagels have been offered to the public and are not suitable for donation.
  • Several unopened milk cartons were held on ice during the service.  Can this food be donated? Yes. This milk can be donated as long as it at a temperature of 41˚F or lower at the time of donation.  The temperature of one container should be taken to ensure proper temperature. Note: if there was no attempt at temperature control (i.e. no ice) the milk must be discarded.
  • A bowl of fruit that patrons were serving themselves from.  Can this food be donated? No. Food that has been offered to the public is not suitable for donation.
  • A bowl of fruit that was never served and stored at 40˚F all morning. Can this food be donated? Yes, provided it can be chilled to 40F or below within 4 hours from the time it was taken out of refrigeration.
  • A bowl of fruit that was never served but sitting out at room temperature for under 4 hours. Can this food be donated? Yes.
  • A bowl of fruit that was never served but sitting out at room temperature for 4.5 hours. Can this food be donated? No, cold food that has been above 41F for more than 4 hours must be discarded.

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