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Ingredients for safe feasts

Adapted by Jessica Kovarik, RD, LD, Extension Associate, University of Missouri Extension, written by Janet M. Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist


Parties and gatherings are great places to share recipes and this one goes well with your health: food safety!

Washing hands often is always a good first step in keeping food safe. Keeping dishes, utensils, and surfaces clean is also very important. So be sure the place where the food will be served is clean. Wash hands often while preparing food. And encourage those eating your delicacies to wash their hands before they eat. Warm water, soap, and scrubbing for 20 seconds are the key ingredients.

This time of year often means sharing food – at the office party or the church potluck. Whatever the gathering, food needs to be kept safe – from start to finish. That means from the time it’s prepared (often at home) until the time it’s eaten, it needs to be at the proper temperature. Keep hot foods hot; that means 140F or hotter. If it’s not steaming, it’s not hot enough. Use crock-pots, chafing dishes, and warming trays to keep foods like casseroles, meat dishes, or sauces at a safe temperature. Keep cold foods cold, meaning 40F or colder. Put cold food, like dips, veggies, cold cuts, or cold salads in a dish that fits well nested into a container of ice. Or serve smaller amounts and keep the rest cold in a nearby refrigerator and replenish as needed. For hot or cold, use an insulated container, thermos, or cooler to transport foods.

Proper temperature is a key ingredient to keeping food safe; time is the other key ingredient. Don’t let cooked and prepared foods sit out longer than two hours or the microbial count could multiply to unsafe proportions! On a buffet table, set out only as much food as will be eaten in two hours or less. Keep the surplus oven-hot or refrigerator-cold. When replenishing the serving table, replace empty dishes with new ones rather than just adding fresh food. Otherwise, you end up with some of the food sitting out for too long!

Think “food safety” when planning your holiday gatherings and enjoy the party and the days that follow! Remember the ingredients – cleanliness, time, and temperature.


Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009






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