January 22, 2018

Hosting a Holiday Buffet? The USDA Can Help

If you’re hosting a holiday buffet, there are some things you need to know about food safety. The USDA has a seasonal food safety fact sheet that can help. Follow the four rules carefully: cook food to a safe final temperature, clean well before, during, and after cooking, separate raw foods from cooked, and chill perishable foods within two hours of cooking.

All raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal cuts must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degree F. That means medium doneness! All ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to 160 degrees F. And all poultry must be cooked to 165 degrees F.

Follow the two hour rule: never let perishable foods sit at room temperature longer than two hours. That means cold salads as well as hot casseroles and meats. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table. Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees F or higher) and cold foods cold (40 degrees F or lower). Use chafing dishes and warming trays for hot foods, and bowls and trays of ice for cold foods. And remember to replace empty platters instead of adding food to a dish that just held food. Scraps can harbor bacteria too!

After the party, divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the fridge or freezer. Rapid, even cooling is key to preventing bacterial growth.  Reheat any leftovers to 165 degrees F to keep them safe.

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