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    Friday, 16 December 2016

    Food Safety Tips for Group Parties

    As the weather takes a turn towards chilly, winter happily descends on sleepy villages overnight. A tell-tale bite in the air is all the warning it gives; before you know it, we’re bundled tightly against the whipping wind and snow, sealing off chinks in our padded armour with thick, knitted material. It’s only natural, given the exterior conditions, that people will gather, cloistering together to share in warmth and cheer. In such situations, people are all too happy to share a meal. Having family and friends side by side is a just cause for celebration. If you are hosting a meal for your loved ones, consider factoring in these food safety tips.

    1. Guests will be clambering to help out by bringing a dish. Their contribution alleviates some of the stress of hosting, so take their help! For those coming from further away, request they bring non-perishable foods or beverages or even things like napkins.

    2. To save yourself from stress and an inordinate amount of cooking on the day of the meal, prepare some dishes beforehand. These can be frozen or refrigerated until needed. Use a food thermometer to ensure that the dish has been reheated to 165°F (73°C).

    3. Best practice for all cooks is to keep a food thermometer handy and use it to take the temperature of all meats products and poultry. 
    • For beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts the correct internal temperature is 145°F (63°C).
    • For ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal the correct internal temperature is 145°F (63°C). 
    • For poultry the correct internal temperature is 165°F (73°C).
    4. When shopping before the party, go for the non-perishable, shelf-stable products first. Hit the frozen and refrigerated products last. This minimises the time that goods like dairy products, meat, eggs, and poultry spend at varying temperatures.

    5. Have a plan to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Doing so will guard against bacterial growth on prepared foods left to sit. Make sure to cover food until ready to serve. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep hot foods hot. Tempting as it may be, slow cookers should not be used to reheat dishes. Prepared food can be kept warm in the oven before serving. For cold foods – dips, salads, cut fruits and veggies – place them in a serving container and then into bowls or trays filled with ice.

    6. Store foods in shallow containers before serving to allow for rapid cooling. It is best to serve foods on small serving dishes rather than one large platter. Once a serving dish is empty, replace it with a new serving dish. By the time a dish is empty, it will have been touched by many people.

    7. Rather than using the standard kitchen towel, it is advised to use disposable paper towels. Group parties are ideal sites to spread bacteria and viruses. Be sure to have ample hand soap available in the bathrooms and kitchens, and consider changing the bathroom towel to paper towels or, if that seems too wasteful, changing out the towel for a fresh one midway through dinner. It would be most unfortunate if your group meal was known as ground zero for an office-wide flu.

    For even more safety tips, check out the USDA’s tips for holiday or party buffets

    Jacqui Litvan

    Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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