Food Safety Refresher
With the holiday catering season upon us, chances are you’ll be presenting some buffet-style meals for your clients, or even for your own family and friends. Now is a good time to brush up on food safety. Yes, you know this stuff… all of us should have solid knowledge of food safety and preventing food-borne illness. But it never hurts to refresh yourself on safe food-handling and serving practices—it’s easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of the season.
The following information comes from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Food handling safety is broken into four main steps:
Clean: Wash your hands before handling food. Clean all surfaces and utensils between uses. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, but DON’T wash meats, poultry or eggs.
Separate: Keep meats, poultry and eggs separate from other foods, from the time they spend in your grocery cart to the time they’re in your fridge. Use separate cutting boards and plates to prepare proteins, too.
Cook: Use a meat thermometer to verify that meat and poultry is properly cooked—don’t go by looks. And keep hot food hot til it’s served—at least 140 degrees to prevent bacteria developing.
Chill: Perishable foods should be chilled quickly—don’t let them drop to room temperature before putting them in the fridge. Also, don’t marinate or thaw proteins on the counter—letting meat stand for long periods at room temperature is a recipe for food poisoning.
Serving buffet-style meals presents additional safety challenges—it’s all about keeping food at the proper temperature and avoiding contamination. The FDA offers the following advice for presenting a safe buffet:
Serve smaller platters: if guests will be serving themselves over a period of time, then prepare several smaller plates of each dish. Put one plate out at a time, and keep the back-ups either refrigerated or in a 200° oven until they’re needed. Not only is that safer, but guests who eat later will have a more enjoyable meal, too.
Keep food at proper temperatures: use warmers or crock pots to keep hot foods hot—140° or warmer. Any cold food that will be on the buffet longer than two hours should be on ice.
Replace, don’t refill: Don’t top off partly-empty serving dishes. Wait until they’re nearly empty, then replace the dish with a fresh one.
The Two-Hour Rule: Discard any perishable foods that have been left out for two hours or longer. If you’re serving in a hot environment (90° or higher) then make that the One-Hour Rule.