Tips for packing food include washing hands and containers first, using insulated containers for hot foods and using cold packs to keep perishable items cool in storage. Food should not be left out of a refrigerator for more than four hours; after that, bacteria grows quickly. Fresh items must be washed first to remove dirt and reduce the chance of bacteria growth. Tight packing prevents food items from shifting and spilling in transit.
Temperature control is the most risky consideration when packing food. Ice packs or frozen beverages, when placed next to perishable items, keep temperature down. Insulated lunch boxes are the best option; when insulation is not available, double-bagging keeps cool air in longer. When packing hot foods, the container should be filled with hot water first to raise the temperature. Once a hot food is stored in a container, the lid must stay in place until meal time to avoid bacteria growth.
For large-scale food packing, hot, cold and non-perishable foods should be kept in separate containers. Wine bags help prevent leaks from liquid items. Sturdy containers, such as baskets or boxes, prevent damage to individual items in transit. Bags are not a good storage option, as the soft sides offer no protection.