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Keep holiday party buffet foods safe

December 12, 2000

Keep holiday party buffet foods safe



Buffets are a popular way to serve food at holiday parties and dinners. But buffets, where foods are left out for long periods of time, leave the door open for uninvited guests - bacteria that cause food-borne illness. Here are some tips to keep holiday parties and buffets trouble-free:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Always wash your hands before and after handling food. Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Always serve food on clean plates, not those that previously held raw meat or poultry. Bacteria in raw meat juices can contaminate the food being served.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Cook foods thoroughly. This has always been important, but it is even more critical today in the wake of continued outbreaks of food-borne illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the center of meat and poultry reaches a safe temperature. Fresh roast beef is still considered relatively safe if cooked to the medium-rare stage (145 degrees). Cook all other meat, fish and ground red meats to 160 degrees, and whole turkeys to 180 degrees.

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HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Think safety when preparing foods in advance. If you have limited preparation time, prepare several items ahead. Make sure you have adequate freezer or refrigerator space for this. Divide cooked meats and dishes into small, shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. Reheat foods you plan to serve hot to 165 degrees.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. To keep hot dishes at 140 degrees or warmer, use chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or lower by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace items often.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Keep foods moving. If you can't keep perishable foods hot or cold, keep them moving. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven - 200 to 250 degrees - or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. For safety's sake, replace empty platters with new ones, rather than adding fresh food to a serving dish that has been sitting out and from which people have been taking food.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If in doubt, throw it out. When the party's over, discard any perishable foods that have been at room temperature for two hours or more. Store salvageable leftovers in the refrigerator for use within two to three days, or in the freezer for longer storage.

For more food safety information, write to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, Md. 21713; or call 301-791-1504.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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