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Don't Invite BAC to Your Home for the Holidays!

Jim Meyer, Nutrition Specialist, Ralls County University of Missouri Extension

When celebrating the holidays, be sure to keep an eye out for an uninvited guest - BAC!, as in bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Many people like to invite friends and family over for a holiday feast so it is important to Fight BAC!™ and practice safe food handling techniques when entertaining during the holiday season.

Dinner parties and buffets are always very popular around the holidays. Foods that are left out for long periods can be an ideal setting for bacteria to multiply. During this busy time of year, you must remember to take special precautions to keep food safe.

There are four basic food safety steps to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness:

CLEAN, wash hands and surfaces often;

SEPARATE, don't cross-contaminate;

COOK, cook to proper temperatures; and

CHILL, refrigerate promptly.

When preparing buffets and party platters, be sure to practice these steps along with the tips below for a safe and BAC!teria-free holiday festivity.


  • Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food. Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean too. Clean up kitchen surfaces with a clean cloth or paper towels. Always serve food on clean plates - never put cooked food on plates that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from fruits and vegetables so juices will not cross-contaminate foods.
  • Cook foods thoroughly to safe temperatures. (Roast beef to 145F for medium rare and 160F for medium; whole poultry to 180F, poultry breasts to 170F and ground poultry to 165F; all other meat, fish and ground red meats to 160F.)
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept hot with chafing dishes, crock pots and warming trays and should be 140F or warmer. Cold foods can be kept cold by placing dishes in bowls of ice and should be 40F or colder.
  • Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than one large tray. Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that has already been used. 
  • Don't let foods sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything left out for 2 hours or more. Promptly refrigerate and store all leftovers in small, shallow containers. Most cooked dishes can keep for up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat thoroughly to 165F when food is hot and steaming.


For more information on practicing safe food handling and fighting foodborne bacteria during the holiday season, visit, call the USDA's Meat and Poultry hotline at 800-535-4555 or call your local University of Missouri Extension office.



Last Updated 10/25/2007










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