Fall is just around the corner and communities will soon be offering hayrides, pumpkin picking, fall festivals, craft shows, and more. When thinking about these fall activities, many people start to crave iconic fall festival food, such as apple pies, hot spiced cider, and pumpkin flavored everything. I love going to these fall festivals and enjoying the treats, but I wondered about the food safety practices of these types of food establishments and food vendors and how safe their food might be. Many of the vendors often travel throughout the state to these events in trucks or trailers. Think of state and local carnivals that like the state and local fairs too. They have food vendors that travel and should be inspected by the local Health department each spot they stop in for the week.
Here are a few things to consider when you are thinking about buying food from any vendor to ensure you are eating safe food:
- Is the food prepared in front of you?It is good for the food to be prepared in front of the consumer so they can see that safe and sanitary food handling practices are followed.
- Is the workspace where the food is prepared clean and tidy?Messy workspaces can cause cross-contamination between foods cooked throughout the day as workers may be more likely to use a surface or utensil that has not been sanitized.
- Do the employees have a sink to wash their hands?Germs can pass from hands to food. Good hygiene of the employees can prevent any transmission of these germs into food prepared for consumers. If the vendor isn’t in a vehicle, is there a place nearby for the employees to wash their hands?
- Do the employees use gloves or tongs to prepare and serve the food?This practice prevents any contamination to come from the food handlers. Food not handled by the employees protects the consumer from any germs and contamination on the employee’s hands.
- Are different foods prepared in the same area?If they are, there is a possibility of cross-contamination, which can cause foodborne illnesses.
- Is there a refrigerator to keep raw ingredients?Food sitting out for more than two hours can be filled with harmful bacteria. It is essential for food to be kept in the right containers at the right temperature to keep it safe for consumers to eat.
There are a few questions for consumers to consider for vendors who travel around from one festival to another:
- Has the vendor been inspected by the health department?If the vendor has been approved there will be a posted permit where the public can see.
- Is there proof of the recent inspection from the health department attached to the permit?Each vendor is inspected and permitted by the health department to prove that the vendor has fulfilled the minimum requirements to be open for the public to safely consume the food.
If a vendor passes all of these questions then the food should be safe to be enjoyed. Enjoy the food at your community’s fall festivals even more by knowing that the food they are serving is the safest it can be.
HALLOWEEN FOOD SAFETY TIPS
Do not get tricked by unwanted bacteria that can make you sick. Avoid uninvited bugs that can ruin your party. Here are food safety tips to have a Happy Halloween!
Tips for Parents Before Treat-or-Trick
- Children should not snack while out trick-or-treating. Give them a snack or light meal before going out.
- Tell children not to accept–and, especially, not to eat–anything that is not commercially wrapped.
Trick-or-Treating Food Safety Tips
- Trick-or-treaters should wait until they get home and their parents can check their candy before they eat
- Discard homemade treats unless it is from someone you know
- Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
- Discard any goodies with open or torn wrapping
Consider alternative treats to give
- packages of low-fat crackers with cheese or peanut butter
- packaged fruit leather
- mini boxes of raisins
- packages of hot chocolate mix
- microwaveable popcorn
What to serve at a Halloween party
- If having food catered, make sure you are working with a reputable caterer and have properly working chafing dishes to keep hot food hot
- Keep hot foods hot at a safe temperature of 140 oF or above.
- Keep cold foods cold. Make sure there is plenty of room in your refrigerator to store cold food before, during and after the party The refrigerator should be 40 F or cooler to prevent bacterial growth.
- If the refrigerator is too crowded, store and cool drinks in coolers with ice.
- If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. Juice or cider that has not been treated will say so on the label.
What food to bring to a Halloween party
- Keep cold food cold, and hot food hot.
- Choose simple dishes that can be put in a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packages.
- Any foods that have been cooked ahead of time and need to be reheated like meatballs and chicken wings need to be heated to 165degrees in a microwave oven.
- Fresh vegetables should be washed well before serving hat your family eats there is safe.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!