Holiday party food safety tips
Holiday get-togethers usually include food. Laying food out on a buffet table is a popular way to serve food at these gatherings. But serving food this way can contribute to foodborne illnesses—a bad way to start the New Year! To protect your guests from foodborne illnesses, follow these tips:
Keep hands, kitchen, dishes and utensils clean
- Wash your hands constantly during preparation, serving and cleanup.
- Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean. Be sure your serving dishes are clean. Do not serve food on plates that previously held raw meat or poultry.
Cook food thoroughly
- Cook roast beef, pork, veal and lamb to at least 145°F for medium rare and 160°F for medium well done; let stand/rest for three minutes before serving. Cook poultry to 165°F or higher. Any foods created from ground meat or hamburger should be cooked to 160°F.
- When serving foods on a buffet table, serve them in several small dishes or platters rather than on huge platters. Keep the rest of the food in your oven (set at 200 to 250°F) or cold in the refrigerator until serving. This way, the foods will be kept at safe temperatures for a longer period of time. When the small platters are empty, replace them with clean dishes rather than add fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Remember: Many unwashed hands have been taking food from these dishes and the food has been sitting out at room temperature.
Recipes using ground meat or hamburger
should be cooked to 160°F.
- Food should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Throw out anything left out for two hours or more.
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
- Hot foods should be held at 140°F or warmer. On the buffet table, keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, warming trays or slow cookers. Keep the covers on the hot food dishes to keep the heat inside the dish.
- Cold food should be held at 40°F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use smaller serving platters and replace them often.
Leftover food safety
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving. If the leftover foods were on your buffet longer than two hours, throw them out.
- Eat your leftovers within three to four days. Use your freezer for longer storage. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.
- Microwaving a plate of food for a few minutes may seem safe enough, but use a food thermometer to make sure all the food is reheated enough to kill bacteria. Microwave ovens heat unevenly; let heated, covered food sit for two minutes before eating to let the heat distribute throughout.
Clean up after your party
- Use soap and water to wash the countertops, tables and the refrigerator door handle (one of the dirtiest spots in a busy kitchen). After washing and rinsing off the suds, follow up with a sanitizing solution of one teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water. Spray on the clean surfaces and air-dry.
- Seasonal: Holiday or Party Buffets (FSIS) — foodsafety.gov
Revised by Suzanne Driessen 2016