Safe Food at Potlucks

Table of various foods

Potluck meals are a fun, low-cost way to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. They are also linked with the spread of foodborne illness. Follow these tips to keep food safe:

  • If you or someone in your home has “stomach flu” or symptoms of a foodborne illness, don’t prepare food.
  • Don’t mix salads, such as potato or a tossed lettuce salad, with your bare hands. Use utensils or wear gloves instead.
  • To keep cold foods cold (40°F or lower), remove items from the refrigerator just before leaving home and put them in a cooler with ice or a freezer gel pack. Remove hot food items from the oven or cooktop and place in containers such as insulated bags to keep foods hot (140°F or above).
  • To prevent cross-contamination, cover your car seat with a clean sheet or large towel before placing the food container on it and don’t transport food with animals in your car.

Source: Food Safety: Potluck Parties, bit.ly/3ohLFAl.

Practicing Food Safety Each Day Keeps Foodborne Illness Away

Fruits and vegetables on kitchen counter

One in six people get food poisoning—also known as a foodborne illness—every year in the United States. Young children, pregnant women, and older adults have a higher risk of foodborne illness.

Pregnant women are at high risk for listeriosis, a type of foodborne illness that causes miscarriage. Lower the risk by doing the following:

  • Cook meat, seafood, poultry and eggs thoroughly.
  • Do not eat cold deli meats or hot dogs. Heat sliced deli meats and hot dogs to 165°F or until steaming.
  • Avoid raw bean sprouts, unpasteurized milk, or cheese made from unpasteurized milk.

Adults ages 60 years and older are at higher risk for foodborne illness because the immune system weakens with age. Likewise, young children are at higher risk because their immune systems haven’t fully developed yet.

Keep everyone safe by following these food safety practices.

  1. Clean: Wash your hands thoroughly. Clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces.
  2. Separate: Keep raw meats apart from other foods that may be eaten without cooking, such as fruits and vegetables.
  3. Cook: Cook foods to the correct temperature. Use this handout on food thermometers, bit.ly/2YXooHu, for more information.
  4. Chill: Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than two hours.

Source: Ten Steps to a Safe Kitchen

Making Salad Safely

Salad is a popular summer dish. However, it is also linked with foodborne illness. There are ways to prepare salad safely so that friends and family do not get sick. Salad food safety tips include the following:

  • Wash your hands! Always wash hands before and after preparing any salad ingredient.
  • Don’t rewash lettuce that is already prewashed in the package. This can introduce contaminants that were already eliminated.
  • Use a different knife and cutting board for each ingredient. If you intend to keep salad ingredients separate for people to make their own, you won’t have contaminated all ingredients.
  • Keep salads cold in a refrigerator, in a cooler, or over ice. Don’t leave out at room temperature for more than two hours. Warmer temperatures (40–140 degrees) can cause bacteria to grow on food and promote illness.
  • Make sure salad is served with a utensil and not bare hands. Hands carry viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. It is best to use clean and sanitized salad tongs or forks.
  • Visit Produce Basics (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics) for tips on how to select, store, and wash many types of salad ingredients.

Be the Food Safety MVP on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. The big game is a big day for food. When food sits out at room temperature for long periods of time, the door is open to uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Every year 48 million people become ill from foodborne illness! Don’t be the cause of a foodborne illness penalty flag! Follow these game day rules:

  • Keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD: Hot food needs to be held at 140°F or higher. Use slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food needs to be held at 40°F or lower. Nest dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them as needed.
  • Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the pre- and post-game shows, you may easily have food sitting out 4–6 hours; temperature control is required.
  • Handle food safely: Always wash your hands before handling food, and clean all surfaces. Use different utensils for each food item and ask guests to use new plates when returning to the food table.
bowl of chili

For more information on food safety and cooking temperatures, visit ISU’s food safety website or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

Holiday Food Safety Hacks

Food is a big part of holiday celebrations. Follow these safe food handling tips to prevent unwelcome foodborne illness from ruining your holidays!

  • Safely thaw food in the refrigerator, in the microwave or in a cool water bath (change water every 30 minutes).
  • Wash hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during and after food preparation.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wash countertops, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles and utensils.
  • Use two cutting boards, one to prepare raw meats and one to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
  • Place leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of serving.
Washing hands in sink

Adapted from 10 Holiday Home Food Safety Tips (www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/holidays/10-holiday-home-food-safety-tips)

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