After spending so much time away from friends and friends, many of us are looking forward to getting together again! But we don’t want to invite food borne illness germs to our gatherings. Here’s how to keep food safe when shopping, preparing, and serving.
Safe food handling starts at the grocery store. When shopping, select your cold foods last. Raw meat and chicken should be placed into plastic bags and be separated from the other foods in your cart to prevent contamination due to dripping juices. Once you check out, load up and head directly home. Perishable food should be refrigerated within 2 hours of purchase. However, when temperatures are above 90°, as they frequently are in Florida, perishable food should be refrigerated within an hour.
When preparing foods, it is important to keep all cold foods cold until you are ready to cook them. If food needs to be defrosted prior to cooking, thaw it completely in the refrigerator for safe thawing and to ensure even cooking.
Keep food separated and use separate cutting boards for produce or other foods that won’t be cooked prior to eating and another for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Additionally, use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods. Wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched raw poultry, meat, or seafood thoroughly before using them again.
When marinating, marinate all meat and poultry in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that has been used on raw foods. Discard it as it might have harmful bacteria in it and have extra marinade on hand to be used as a sauce on cooked foods.
When serving food at a gathering, it is important to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. The bacteria that cause food borne illnesses grow best in the temperature “danger zone”, between 40° and 140°. Keep cold foods at 40° or lower until serving. Because foods such as pasta salad, potato salad, and egg salad have all been involved in food borne illness outbreaks you should keep them on ice during the event. Cooked hot foods should be kept at 140° or above. Hot foods can be wrapped and placed in an insulated container until serving. Once food is served, do not let food sit out for more than one hour if temperatures are above 90°. Refrigerate any leftovers immediately. Any food has been served and left to sit out for more than an hour should be discarded.