The holidays are upon us. One of the best things about this time of year is the gatherings that happen with family and friends. And with those gatherings come lots and lots of delicious food.

If you’re hosting a party, remember that keeping most foods out all day long can create the perfect atmosphere for bacteria and foodborne illness. Avoid giving your guests an unwelcome gift this holiday season by keeping these food safety tips in mind:

While preparing your food

  • Before and after handling any food, wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Bacteria from your hands can contaminate your party food.
  • Wash surfaces that will come in contact with food, such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops. Just like your hands, surfaces and dishes can house bacteria that could harm your food.
  • Serve food on clean plates. Never let juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood come into contact with cooked food.
  • When refilling food, replace serving plates each time. Avoid putting fresh food on serving plates that have been sitting out at room temperature.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool water and use a brush to remove dirt. Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, you should wash it first.
  • When prepping frozen foods, thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Do not leave them out to thaw at room temperature. Be sure to cook your food immediately once thawed.

When cooking

  • With dishes involving meat, poultry and fish, use a food thermometer to check that it’s cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • If you’re making a dish that calls for raw eggs, make sure to use pasteurized ones.

 

Remember the two-hour rule

Most foods shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. If you want to keep dishes out longer on your buffet, use a chafing dish to keep hot foods hot and serve cold foods in nesting dishes placed in bowls of ice. Or use smaller serving trays and replace the cold foods more frequently with fresh pieces. Only foods that are safe at room temperature, such as nuts and cookies, can be left out all day long.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to worry less about your food preparation and spend more time with family and friends this holiday season. Happy gathering!

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