Stay healthy during the holiday season with more attention to food safety. This is the season of sharing food with family and friends. Whether you plan to take your favorite dish to a party or host an event at your home, it is important to follow some basic rules to keep everyone safe from bacteria and food borne illness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety offers entertainment serving tips on the website, www.fda.gov or with a toll free telephone line (1-888-SAFEFOOD). The FDA recommends multiple steps to safe handling of food. The first step in the process is cleaning. Washing hands, sanitizing surfaces and utensils, are important in avoiding contamination and in limiting the spread of germs. What is the best way to clean? The answer is simple, hot soapy water. The second food safety tip is to avoid cross-contamination. Keep knives, trays and cutting boards separate, if you use them in preparing raw meat. Clean thoroughly before transitioning from cutting raw meat, to cutting vegetables or other food products. The third step in food safety is proper cooking temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure that foods reach a safe temperature. Visit the website: www.aces.edu and search the publication tab for a printable article, “There’s No Place Like Home for Food Safety.” This download provides recommended cooking temperatures for various products as well as a guide to warming leftovers. The final step to consider in keeping food safe is refrigeration. Avoid leaving food at room temperature for more than two hours. Chilling is important for such foods as dips, cheese, and other dairy products.
Serve your holiday meals and maintain buffets at the appropriate and safe temperature of 140○F for hot foods. Cold foods should be kept at 40○F or colder. Holding cold foods in the refrigerator until the last possible moment before serving, helps assure safer food. When it is time to add more food to your buffet or party area, bring a fresh portion in a clean dish. Remove the previous serving dish and clean it. Generally, it is up to the host or hostess to monitor the temperature of the foods in your home and the length of time your food selections are left at room temperature. Build a habit of watchfulness so that your family, friends, and guests enjoy the freshest and safest holiday offerings.