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Mar 13, 2013 06:29 PM

Food safety question - food being transported in car for 30-40 minutes

I will be cooking some of the food for our wedding (eek) so we will need to transport it to our reception venue, which is 30 minutes away by car. The food will be in fridges at our house and will be put in a fridge at the reception venue.

I had assumed that we would need to transport everything in cooler boxes due to food safety issues, but I've calculated that we will probably need 10 separate cooler boxes, plus an ice box, due to the amount of food and the size of the containers. We will only have one ice box and one cooler box of our own, so we would have to borrow or hire the others, or look for cheap ones in thrift stores, ebay etc. That would start to get expensive, especially if we don't actually need to do it.

Can we get away with only putting some of the food in cooler boxes, with no food safety issues for 40 or so minutes? If we have to choose between different foods to store in the cooler boxes, would the dairy items be of higher preference?

The foods we would be transporting are:
Savoury dishes: baked ziti, eggplant parmigiana, lemon chicken tagine, leek & cheese tarts, chicken filo pastries, lamb filo pastries, Thai fish cakes
Dairy desserts: Chocolate mousses, lemon cheesecakes, strawberry & custard tarts, tiramisu
Desserts with not as much dairy: Sticky date pudding, pear and chocolate cake, orange polenta cake

If we don't use cooler boxes, we'll probably put the food in large plastic storage boxes, perhaps with ice blocks chucked in there. They will be in the boots/trunks of various cars. Weather on the day could be anything for that time of the year in Australia, but is most likely to be around the 65-70 degree mark.

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  1. Well, no one can give you guarantees, of course. A US govt. viewpoint, which is usually more severe than I bother to be, is that the "danger zone" is having something above 40 degrees for above 40 minutes. If your things are well chilled to begin with, and especially if you stuff some freezer bricks in the trunks, you should be fine. In fact, apart from the Thai fish cakes, I don't think I'd even bother trying to keep the savory items all that cool.

    The desserts are another matter: not from safety but from quality grounds, you need to protect them with their temperature preferences.

    That's my two cents! And congrats on the wedding!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bada Bing

      A US govt. viewpoint, which is usually more severe than I bother to be, is that the "danger zone" is having something above 40 degrees for above 40 minutes.
      Actually, the USDA specifies that food is safe to consume as long as it has been in the "danger zone" for less than 2 hours.

      1. re: Bada Bing


        I did take the cheesecake (same recipe) in my car to work last week, which was 1 hour, and it was still fine. I kept the springform ring around the outside to hold it in place - might do the same on the wedding day too.

      2. Coolers are just boxes with thick walls (either empty space or styrofoam to provide insulation). If you wrap your large plastic storage boxes in heavy blankets, they essentially become an insulated cooler. Freeze some water bottles instead of ice blocks. Or better yet, fill gallon zip-locs with water and lay them flat to freeze. Then you can line the bottom of your box and the top of your lid.

        If I had to prioritize, I would make the dairy desserts #1. Not because they are dairy, but because the mousses, cheesecakes, and custards can weep or suffer from condensation.

        1 Reply
        1. re: seamunky

          I like the zip-loc and wrapping the storage boxes idea - I think we will do that. Thanks!

        2. Newspaper is a surprisingly good insulator. Use many thicknesses and you will be amazed at how cool things will stay.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Querencia

            Let me expand that. a) Newspaper is a good insulator. b) Cold things also keep each other cold---stay colder if they aren't in isolation. So, would this work: get big cardbox boxes, line them on bottom and sides with many thicknesses of newspaper, put cold things packed in together, add a few bags of frozen vegetables for an extra cold source (they can be used somewhere someday and not wasted), then lay lots more newspaper on top and close the boxes. I should think this would work pretty well for just a 40-minute trip.

              1. re: Querencia

                You could also get boxes from your fish monger - they're coated in wax and can easily handle the ice. To save that step, I'd simply freeze some bags as suggested above.

                If it were me, I would have no concerns with a 40 minute commute time save for the deserts.

            1. The original comment has been removed
              1. You will be fine...30 minutes is not a big deal at all.

                I would be more concerned about the desserts getting roughed up during the ride.