Warning not to leave meat in overheated cars after shopping

Meat should spend no longer than two hours outside of refrigerator - Food Safety Authority of Ireland

People could be putting their health at serious risk by leaving meat, fish and poultry in overheated cars instead of bringing it straight home from the shops, it has been claimed.

According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland such produce should spend no longer than two hours outside of a refrigerator with the clock starting to tick the moment it is lifted off the shop shelf rather than the moment it leaves the store.

Thomas Ryan, a second-generation butcher from Cong, Co Mayo, told The Irish Times that he has been consistently dismayed over recent days by the number of people buying meat in his shop who have appeared happy to leave the meat in roasting car boots while they run other errands in the town.

“What is amazing is how few people are coming in with cooler bags,” he said. “We will sell a chicken nicely chilled but after spending even 10 minutes in a car in this heat its temperature will rise above five degrees and if it spends an hour in a car boot then you could be dealing with a chicken which has a core temperature of over 16 degrees.”


He said he was “blue in the face” telling his customers to bring the chilled meats straight home. “Anyone who works with food will tell you that you need to get the food home and into the fridge when it is hot like this,” he said.

“You can’t just be calling into all your friends when you have a chicken spoiling in your boot. It’s dangerous,” he said.

He added that he was considering selling cooler bags.

That probably won’t make much difference, at least according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

A spokeswoman said chilled food should not spend any longer than two hours out of a refrigerator irrespective of whether or not it is in a cooler bag.

“The reason we say two hours max for both a bag and a cooler bag is that it’s one simple message,” the spokeswoman said. “A cooler bag may well give a bit more time than two hours, but that all depends on the cooler bag and whether or not the person has added ice blocks to it. By giving two different times for different bags, there’s a risk that people may get confused and mix them up,” she said.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast