Healthy living

Taking leftover food home

  • It is not illegal to take leftover food home from a food business.
  • A food business can refuse to let you take leftover food home, but this is a food business policy, not a law.
  • It is important to follow safe food handling guidelines to reduce the risk of food poisoning from leftover foods.

Some food businesses allow you to take leftover food home, giving you containers that are sometimes referred to as ‘doggy bags’.

If you do take food home, it is important you store and handle the food safely to avoid food poisoning.

Is it illegal to take leftover food home?

No. Food activities within Western Australia are governed by the Food Act 2008 and the Food Regulations 2009

These laws do not stop food businesses from letting you take your leftover food home.

Can a food business refuse to let me take leftover food?

Yes, but this decision is made by the individual food business and a refusal is not because it is against the law.

There is also no requirement for a food business to supply you with a container to take your food home. Some restaurants, however, allow you to supply your own container.

Food safety concerns

Once the food is taken off the food business premises you are responsible for its safe storage and handling to minimise the risk of food poisoning.

A lack of temperature control when taking away and transporting leftover food can allow dangerous bacteria to grow, increasing the risk of food poisoning.

These bacteria grow very well in the ‘temperature danger zone’ which is between 5 °C and 60 °C. Leftover food at restaurants is commonly taken away while in the danger zone. In addition, the food may be eaten several hours or even days after it was prepared, further increasing the risk of food poisoning.

Follow these simple food safety guidelines:

  • Refrigerate food below 5 °C as soon as possible.
  • Throw away food not refrigerated within 2 hours (including time in the food business).
  • Throw away food that is more than 24 hours old.
  • Reheat refrigerated food for at least 2 minutes to steaming hot (above 75 °C) before eating.

Find out more about food safety.

More information

Contact Environmental Health Services at your local government (external site).

You can also contact the Consumer Protection Advice Line phone 1300 304 054.

Environmental Health Directorate

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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