Food safety for summer parties
It is that time of year again.
The hot muggy weather will soon be upon us. Grills will be fired up. People will be having backyard barbecues or hosting picnics in various venues.
There will be graduation parties, outdoor wedding showers, weekend barbecues, picnics, and catered parties for various occasions.
There is one guest you definitely do not want at your outdoor soiree. My little friend in the photograph.
Contrary to popular belief, most food borne illnesses are caused by outdoor home parties and picnics. Even when people hire caterers to prepare food, they neglect to maintain the food properly, causing guests to become ill.
Hot humid weather is a breeding environment for bacteria. Weather and careless food maintenance is a great recipe for the two-step trots and riding the porcelain bus.
Parties are a lot of work. With work comes responsibility. You are just as responsible for your guests well being as filling their maws and bellies with tasty food and drink.
Go the extra mile to make sure your guests enjoy themselves and stay healthy.
Here are some tips to keep your food safe and prevent your guests from emergency room visits:
Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot: First, get a food thermometer. Learn how to use it. Then abide by the 40/140 rule. Cold foods should be kept at 40° (F) or lower. Hot foods should be kept at 140° (F) or higher. Even if you have a catered meal, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Invest a few bucks in foil pan kits with Sterno™ type servers to keep hot foods hot.
Keep your cold serving pieces on ice and maintain the ice. Check the temperature of the food every half hour. Add ice if necessary. The message here is keeping plenty of ice on hand.
Only put out what you think can be eaten in a short period of time. Replenish as necessary. This is especially true with those deviled eggs everyone loves. They are one of the major causes of foodborne illness.
Keep food refrigerated until ready to cook or keep in coolers packed with ice near the grill. Make sure you check and keep the ice topped off. If using coolers separate poultry from other foods. Styrofoam containers are cheap. Buy some large ones and use one for each type of food- meat, poultry, vegetables, cured meats like hot dogs and sausages. Keep them covered.
Do not cross contaminate: Raw and cooked foods should be separated. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods or thoroughly clean cutting boards and utensils after prepping individual raw foods.
Always place cooked food on clean serving pieces. Thoroughly clean any pieces that contained raw foods.
Wash all fruits and vegetables: This is a no-brainer. Oh, and those products that claimed they are washed- wash them too. Due to all the crevices in its skin, cantaloupe is one of the main causes of food borne illness. To insure safety, wash and peel cantaloupe.
Make sure foods, especially poultry or fish, are thoroughly cooked. Serve and eat rare to medium rare foods immediately. These should not be put on the buffet table to sit around.
Clean, clean, clean. If you have time to lean you have time to clean. Keep cooking and serving areas clean. Constantly clean. Get rid of the lawn chair near the grill and look for any excuse to clean. Wipe up any spills or even minor bits of food immediately, especially around serving areas. Disposable wipes with bleach are great and can be kept out of sight until needed. A few drops of bleach in a spray bottle with water is good too.
Wash hands: If you are handling food, cooking, prepping, or serving, wash your hands continually. Use plenty of soap and hot water. Wash after handling any raw foods.
Use tongs: Place a set of tongs at each serving tray or container of food. Tongs are cheap insurance against dirty hands causing food borne illness. For other foods, use serving spoons. Clean these occasionally.
Cover food: Flies and other bugs carry food borne diseases. Cover all food on outdoor buffet tables. Keep watch over your guests and replace covers they neglect to.
Alcohol: Hot weather and alcohol can cause illness. Some people’s tolerance for booze is lowered during hot weather. Provide plenty of water to your guests. Premium spirits are the craze. Invest in them. Make tastier cocktails using less alcohol. Buy better-tasting beer and wine. Make taste versus quantity the important factor.
Avoid concocting those sugar laden monstrosities containing fruit punch, jello shots, or other silliness college students love to get sick on. You are an adult. Act like one. Treat your guests like adults.
Have safe and satisfying outdoor parties and barbecues.