Whether it’s a graduation party, a family reunion or a neighborhood cookout, celebrating with food is a tradition. While you’re planning menus and buying supplies, take steps to ensure that the food you’ll be serving is safe and pathogen free.
"Hosting parties take a great deal of work and we often focus so much on preparing and serving food in a timely fashion that we don’t think about preparing and serving food safely," says Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of Stop Foodborne Illness , a national, nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. To help ensure you are serving food that won’t spread foodborne illness, Stop has put together a list of food safety tips to help party hosts put out their best and safest food when celebrating their graduates.
Stop Foodborne Illness suggests:
- Have a plan! Cooking such an important meal for a large gathering of friends and family can be stressful and lead to subpar approaches to handling food. Think about your refrigerator, freezer and oven space, and how you'll manage to keep hot foods at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or below. If you need to use coolers, make sure you have plenty of clean ice. Whatever you do, don’t rely on the natural outdoor or indoor temperatures to keep foods at proper temperature!
- Wash your hands. When preparing food, Stop Foodborne Illness emphasizes the importance of washing your hands thoroughly and keeping all surfaces you’re working on clean.
- Wash produce. Stop Foodborne Illness recommends washing even prepackaged greens, to minimize potential bacterial contamination.
- Keep cooking surfaces clean and sanitized . Preparing raw meat and poultry on the same surfaces as food that does not get cooked could lead to cross-contamination. Make sure kitchen counters, sponges, cutting boards, and knives are all well-scrubbed.
- Defrost Safely. Properly defrost meat by allocating 24 hours per 5 pounds to defrost in the refrigerator. If you need to defrost quicker, place the meat a large bowl filled with cold water and change the cold water bath every 30 minutes.
- Cook to proper temperature. And use a thermometer to ensure food has been cooked enough to kill bacteria. Find out more with this safe food temperature guide.
- Food brought by party guests. While help is always appreciated, remind guests to transport cold foods in a cooler below 40 F and bring hot foods in an insulated carrier to ensure the temperature stays at or above 140 F. Prepared foods must be refrigerated or thrown out after two hours.
- Refrigerate leftovers. Many people don’t think twice about leaving food out on the counter all day. Two hours is the limit. Allowing food to sit out longer is one of the easiest food safety mistakes to make since food left in the danger zone—above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees–facilitates bacterial growth. To avoid this, Stop recommends storing leftovers in 2-inch deep, shallow containers within two hours of serving.
Remember, practicing safe cooking procedures is not just for the host. For those attending graduation parties as guests, bring dishes, not pathogens. Here are a few things guests can do to help prevent the spread of foodborne illness:
- Wash your hands. Even if you don’t prepare food you should still wash your hands before you eat.
- Pack hot foods while hot. If you’re preparing a hot dish at home and bringing it to the party, pack it right away! Don’t wait for hot foods to cool down before packing. If you reheat at the party, remember to check the temperature with a thermometer.
Feel free to share some quick tips from Stop’s Food Safety News with friends and family to make sure you are helping keep each other safe during graduation party season.
About Stop Foodborne Illness
Stop Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens by advocating for sound public policies, building public awareness and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. For more food safety tips please visit www.STOPfoodborneillness.org/awareness/. If you think you have been sickened from food , contact your local health professional. You may subscribe to receive Stop Foodborne Illness e-Alerts and eNews here: www.STOPfoodborneillness.org/take-action/sign-up-for-e-alerts/ and follow their news at their newsroom here: http://www.newsline360.com/stopfoodborneillness.