Are Restaurant Doggy-Bags Legal?

Should doggy-bags be illegal? This is a dividing issue and there are definitely supporters on both sides of the argument. So, let's take a look at the facts.
April 2, 2016

Many people consider it their right to take home any food leftover after a restaurant meal. After all, they’ve paid for it, so why shouldn’t they? 
However, they may not know all the facts about doggy-bagging laws and their potential threat to food safety.

Many Australian restaurants have begun to ban the popular custom of allowing diners to take home uneaten food – but this doesn’t necessarily mean the practice is illegal. There’s currently no law in Australia that would prevent restaurants from offering their customers take-away containers for leftover food.

According to each state’s food board, it’s actually up to the restaurant, but they do recommend erring on the side of caution. These authorities suggest that the containers be dated and the customer is given instructions on how to safely store and reheat the food. Some restaurants are taking this advice a step further and asking those who wish to take home leftovers to sign a legal waiver.

The Risks of Doggy-Bagging

If you are going to take home leftovers, food safety and health experts warn against the potential risks associated with doggy-bagged meals. Lukewarm food acts as an ideal habitat for the rapid growth of bacteria, which can then lead to food poisoning. To reduce this risk, consumers need to make sure they refrigerate the food within two hours.Beyond this, customers are also advised to:

  • Throw away any leftovers that have been out of the fridge longer than 2 hours
  • Reheat food at a temperature of at least 75°C
  • Follow key food safety tips for preparing, storing, and eating leftover food.

Although some restaurants may be reluctant to provide take-away boxes, consumers in Australia are legally permitted to doggy-bag their own meals if they're willing to run the risk of food poisoning.