Leaving Food In Your Car Can Be Dangerous and Possibly Damaging

Whether you’re taking groceries home from the grocery store or going on a long car trip, there are many reasons to have groceries in your car. However, the transport of food for a short period of time is generally acceptable. However, if you accidentally leave them in your car for an extended period of time, they can be dangerous for your car and your health.

Your vehicle may be a food hazard.

If you accidentally leave food in your car, it’s important to understand the basics of food safety. According to the USDA, food stored in the refrigerator for an extended period of time can be in the danger zone of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In this range, bacteria can grow exponentially and even double in size in as little as 20 minutes. Ideally, you should store hot foods at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or lower.

PORTLAND, I’M ON LINE TWO. JUNE : Salty dark chocolate and peanut butter popcorn road trip in a Prius on Tuesday the 2nd. June 2015. (Photo by Sean Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Your vehicle cannot be used as an oven or refrigerator

While you can technically cook the Thanksgiving turkey in the engine compartment of your car, that doesn’t mean you can use the interior as a refrigerator or oven. Now that you know the ideal temperature range for food, you can also accurately assess how temperature fluctuations in your car may affect the food stored there.

According to Reader’s Digest, the temperature inside a car can quickly reach 140 degrees on a hot day and get even hotter when it’s 115 degrees or more outside. This dramatic rise in temperature not only has major consequences for the product itself, but also the packaging in which it is packed (e.g. plastic, polystyrene, etc.) may not be able to withstand these fluctuations and interact with the food.

Surfers watching and eating snacks from their cars parked above the beach on the Cornish winter waves. | (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

RELATED: The 10 best and worst foods to sit in the car.

How to store food in your vehicle

For example, if you want to keep food in your car for a long time. B. If you are traveling, you may want to invest in a cooler and coolers for cold foods and maybe even heaters for hot foods. Portable snacks like beef jerky, energy bars and even nuts should also be kept in the fridge.

As you can imagine, perishable foods like fruits and vegetables can quickly get into the danger zone, but trying to cool them with a car air conditioner is a bad idea because the air coming out of the vents isn’t as cold as in a real refrigerator or freezer.

An employee is handing out food to a customer in a car from a Burger King restaurant. | (Photo credit should read: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

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How can food damage the interior of your vehicle?

If you leave food in your car for an extended period of time, not only can it contaminate the interior of the car, but if the food melts on a hot day, the dirt can stain the interior of the car or even get into electrical components like the USB ports. You may think the chances of this happening in your car are slim, but if your car isn’t completely clean, you may not even remember that you left food in it.

In short, remove food from the car as soon as possible and, if you are travelling, do not take perishable food with you. In any case, stick to travel snacks and bring a cooler.

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