Doggy bags

This page has information for food business and consumers about how to store and handle leftover food taken home from restaurants in doggy bags. 

Risk of food poisoning

Food in doggy bags may cause food poisoning if it is:

  • kept unrefrigerated for too long
  • kept too long
  • not suitably reheated
  • touched with unwashed hands
  • transported or stored incorrectly.

Keep food at safe temperatures

Food must be kept at safe temperatures to limit growth of bacteria.

Hot food

Hot food should be kept above 60 degrees Celsius.

Cold food

Cold food should be refrigerated as soon as possible after leaving the restaurant, and kept at 5 degrees Celsius or lower.

Food left out of the fridge for longer than two hours may become unsafe because of the chance of bacteria growing.

Minimise the risk of food poisoning

For food businesses

Food businesses should have procedures for using doggy bags including all of the following:

  • telling customers they should not give food from doggy bags to people who are sick, elderly, have allergies, or are under five years of age
  • telling customers if food is not suitable for a doggy bag - eg: if it has already been reheated
  • recording the date, time, food, customer's details and advice given when the doggy bag is provided
  • using new, unused food-grade containers.

You should provide labels or leaflets with information about the food in doggy bags. 

Example label 

Your business name.
Food that you take home from this restaurant needs to be stored and handled so it stays safe to eat.

You can keep the food at a safe temperature by:

  • eating it within two hours
  • putting it in the refrigerator within two hours.
  • reheating it to piping hot before eating it
  • throwing it away if it is not eaten within 24 hours.

Please follow any specific advice given to you by the restaurant.



For consumers

Consumers should store and prepare food provided in a doggy bag safely, including:

  • following the advice given by the restaurant
  • refrigerating the food as soon as possible
  • reheating food so that it is steaming hot (above 75 degrees Celsius) and heated all the way through
  • throwing away any food that is not eaten within 24 hours
  • not giving the food to people who are sick, elderly, have allergies or are under five years old
  • following the rule 'if in doubt, throw it out'.

For more information contact Environmental Health.

Last updated: 21 September 2015

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