During the holiday season we often participate in pot-lucks or other gatherings where we prepare food at home and then transport and serve it at a party or event. It is important to keep food safety in mind in these situations to avoid ruining the holidays of our friends and loved ones with a case of food poisoning.
When traveling with food, keep HOT foods hot (140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) by wrapping them in foil and then covering with heavy towels or carry them in insulated containers designed for this purpose. Cold foods must also receive care to ensure they remain at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This can be achieved using a cooler with ice or freezer packs.
When the food arrives, immediately place cold foods in the refrigerator and hot foods in the oven or other warming device to keep food out of the “danger zone” (bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 F and 140 F – thus this range of temperature is referred to as the “danger zone”). If food has been in the “danger zone” 2 hours or more throw it out.
See the following tips below so bacteria does not crash your party this holiday season.
- Cook foods thoroughly before the party: Pull out your food thermometer and use the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart.
- Keep hot foods hot: Use chafing dishes, crock pots, and warming trays to keep hot food hot. Use a food thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature of the food is 140° F or higher.
- Keep cold foods cold: Store cold foods in the refrigerator until serving time. On the buffet table, place plates or bowls of cold food on ice.
- Follow the Two-Hour Rule: If the food’s been out at room temperature for more than two hours, throw it out! After two hours, bacteria can easily multiply and cause food-borne illness.
- Wash those hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after you handle food