Do I need to worry about food safety at a cocktail party?

When serving food, it is important to think of food safety to prevent food borne illness.

I am having a small group of friends over for cocktails. Everyone is bringing a dish to share. I don’t need to worry about food safety do I? The answer: Yes, you do. Food borne illness pathogens never take a vacation, so neither should you when it comes to serving safe food. Whether the event is a small intimate affair or a large party, food safety should be top priority advises Michigan State University Extension. Guests should have pleasant memories of the event, not a memory of how sick they got from eating at the party.

There are four key words to keep in mind for food safety. Those words are: Clean, separate, cook and chill.

Clean means washing hands before starting food preparation, washing them anytime the hands touch raw meat, poultry or fish and washing hands anytime the hands touch something other than food. To properly wash the hands, use running water about 100 degrees Fahrenheit to wet the hands. Next use soap and create lather. Wash hands, in between the fingers and up the arms. The third step is to rinse in running water. The process of washing the hands should take a minimum of 20 seconds. The last step is to dry the hands with a disposable paper towel. Never wipe hands on a common towel or clothing because that just re-contaminates the hands. Hands should be washed before and after preparing food, after using the bathroom and changing diapers, after touching animals or after smoking or chewing tobacco.

All food preparation surfaces, equipment, and utensils should be washed, rinsed, and sanitized before preparing food. A good sanitizing solution is one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water.

The second word to remember is separate. This means keep raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs from cross-contaminating ready to eat foods. Use one cutting board for raw meats and a different cutting board for fruits and vegetables. This will prevent cross-contamination from occurring.

The third word is cook. All cooked foods need to be cooked to a minimum internal cooking temperature to destroy potential food borne illness pathogens. Use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperatures of the cooked foods. All microwaved foods should reach a minimum internal cooking temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The last word to remember is chill. Food needs to be chilled within two hours of being cooked or food borne illness bacteria will grow. Food borne bacteria love the temperature danger zone of 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Some pathogens can double in numbers every twenty minutes at these temperatures.

So when having a get together it is important to keep hot foods hot, above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods cold, below 40 degree Fahrenheit.

Remember the four words: Clean, separate, cook and chill to keep food at the cocktail party safe. The guests should have memories of what a good time they had not a memory of being sick days later.

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