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Food Safety for Buffets and Parties


Now that Indiana is moving into stage 5 of the ‘Back on Track’ plan and as a part of that group sizes are not limited, the potential for group gatherings that include food could be on the increase. A gathering of friends and family is fun, but we still need to be cautious and follow food safety rules.

            Follow these steps to keep foodborne germs from spoiling your part.

Keep it Clean

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 30 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water afer preparing each food item.

Separate Raw meat from Other Foods

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from foods that won’t be cooked before eating such as fruit, salad greens, deli salads, and bread.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for fresh fruits and vegetables and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods when shopping for groceries and when storing in the refrigerator.

Cook to a Safe Temperature

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a temperature hot enough to kill germs that could make you sick.
  • Follow recommended microwave cooking s standing times.
    • Cold spots – areas that are not completely cooked – can provide a hiding place for germs. For this reason, always follow cooking instructions and directions for standing time – the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.

Serve Foods Safely

  • If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer. This encourages rapid, even cooling.
  • Keep hot foods hot, at 140oF or warmer. Use slow cookers, chafing dishes, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
  • For picnics and other outdoor meals, keep cold food in a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs until just before serving. Catering or getting food delivered? Make sure food that is catered or delivered stays at a safe temperature.

The Two-Hour Rule

  • Throw away any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for 2 hours or more.
  • Toss them after 1 hour if they’ve been sitting out at temperatures of 90oF or hotter, such as food served at a picnic or outdoor family reunion.

Store and Reheat Leftovers the Right Way

  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze.
  • Leftover foods should be refrigerated at 40oF or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165oF before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.

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