Holiday or Party Buffets
A popular way to celebrate holidays or any party occasion is to invite friends and family to a buffet. However, this type of food service in which foods are left out for long periods leave the door open for uninvited guests — bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
Festive times for giving and sharing should not include sharing foodborne illness. Here are some tips from the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline to help you have a safe holiday party.
Safe Food Handling: Wash your hands always, before and after handling food. Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean, also. Always serve food on clean plates — not those previously holding raw meat and poultry. Otherwise, bacteria which may have been present in raw meat juices can cross contaminate the food to be served.
Cook Thoroughly: Be sure to cook foods thoroughly at safe minimum internal temperatures if you are cooking foods ahead of time for your party.
• Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
• Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer.
• Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer.
Use Shallow Containers: Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. This way, foods will be held at a safe temperature for a longer period of time. Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Many people’s hands may have been taking food from the dish, which has also been sitting out at room temperature.
The Two-Hour Rule: Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything there two hours or more.
Keep Hot Foods HOT And Cold Foods COLD: Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. On the buffet table, you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them.
Foodborne Bacteria: Bacteria are everywhere, but a few types are especially like to crash parties. Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes frequent people’s hands and steam tables. And unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful or pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Prevention is safe food handling.
If illness occurs, however, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.