Many offices host some sort of get-together this time of year and you may join in by bringing a dish to pass. If you’re not bringing food to the office, you may be hosting a get-together with family or friends. Follow these tips to be sure your guests remember your tasty contribution, instead of a naughty case of foodborne illness.
Tip 1: Keep Hot Food Hot. Hot items are best served immediately after cooking or reheating. If you plan on serving a hot item at the office party, take it straight from the oven and either place it in an insulated bag or hot food carrier. If you can’t serve it as soon as you arrive, return it to the oven. Alternatively, you can completely chill the item and transport it according to Tip 2. Once you arrive at the office reheat it using a microwave, stove, or oven to 165 °F.
Tip 2: Keep Cold Food Cold. Cold items should remain in the refrigerator for as long as possible. When transporting cold dishes, place items in a cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. A refrigerator thermometer in the cooler is a useful way to make sure items remain at proper chill temperature of 40 °F or below.
Tip 4: Use Several Small Platters. For both hot and cold items, arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on large platter. This way you can hold food at safe temperatures (cold foods below 40 °F and hot foods above 140 °F) until partygoers are ready to eat it.
Tip 5: Keep Track of Time. Keep track of how long items have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything out longer than two hours. You never want to leave perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles in the “Danger Zone” over two hours. The danger zone is between 40 and 140 °F where bacteria multiply rapidly. After two hours, enough bacteria may have grown in your food to make partygoers sick. Exceptions to the danger zone include ready-to-eat items like cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruit.
In the U.S., CDC estimates that each year 1 in 6 people (48 million) will get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 will die of a foodborne disease. Most of the victims are the very young or old, or have a weakened immune system. By storing, cooking, and holding foods safely, you can reduce your family’s risk of becoming ill.
Information adapted from U.S. Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and FoodSafety.gov