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Food Safety For Celebrations

When it comes to entertaining—whether it’s a summer cookout or winter holidays—it’s important to know about food safety for celebrations. Take a sec to read through the tips below. For more information, see our Top 10 Food Handling Tips (for general info) and more specific holiday food safety tips. Then, when the party’s over, we can talk about food safety tips for leftovers!

Serving Food Outdoors

  • When transporting food, keep perishables in a cooler with ice or freezer packs until serving time. Make sure food is cold before it goes in the cooler.
  • Eliminate the need to store and transport leftovers by packing just the amount of perishable foods that will be eaten.
  • Transport the cooler in an air-conditioned car instead of a hot trunk. At the site, keep the cooler in the shade and open it as little as possible.
  • Never leave foods at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If the air temperature is over 90°F, perishable foods should be left out no longer than 1 hour.
  • If you purchase a large quantity of take-out food, such as fried chicken or barbecued beef, plan on eating the food within 2 hours of pickup. Otherwise, buy the food in advance, refrigerate and reheat just before serving.
  • Keep desserts made with whipped topping, cream cheese or dairy products refrigerated until ready to serve. Store leftovers in a refrigerator or cooler.
  • When preparing food outdoors away from home, bring a jug of water, soap and paper towels for washing hands in addition to a hand sanitizer.

Indoor Buffets

  • To keep foods appetizing, set out smaller platters and replenish them each hour or as needed. This also helps keep foods at safe serving temperatures.
  • Make sure hot foods are kept at 140°F or warmer. Use a chafing dish or warming tray.
  • Keep cold foods on ice or replace often to maintain a temperature of 45°F or colder.
  • Never leave foods at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • When refilling empty platters of meat- or dairy-based foods, replace or wash the serving platter. Residual food particles that have been sitting at room temperature may contaminate the fresh food.
  • Leave ready-to-eat foods containing eggs, meat and dairy products in the refrigerator until you serve them. This includes cream pies and cakes frosted with cream cheese or whipped topping.
  • If you know that guests will be delayed, reserve some of the temperature-sensitive foods to serve when they arrive. Hold the hot foods in the oven and the cold foods in the refrigerator.
  • When serving dips or dipping sauces, place a spoon near the serving bowl to discourage “double dipping.” This can help prevent contamination.

Find more safety tips for Holiday Foods and healthy living holiday recipes on our website.

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