Five Safe Ways to Prepare & Host a Holiday Buffet

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The Fall holiday season reigns in terms of total grocery sales in the United States.*  This abundance of food going home with people indicates a busy season of food preparation in November and December.  

Gathering around the table and sharing meals is how we celebrate holidays with loved ones, neighbors and co-workers.  The non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) has timely advice to support you in setting up a safe and delicious holiday buffet.    

“You do many things to create a wonderful holiday gathering for your friends and families,” said Shelley Feist, PFSE executive director. “Keeping food safety and hand hygiene top-of-mind as you prepare your party ensures a healthy, happy time for the ones you love.”

The Partnership offers five key ways to keep unwanted germs away from your holiday gathering: 

  1. Keep a Clean Scene.  Before cooking and after handling raw ingredients such as meat, poultry, eggs and flour, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. It sounds simple but recent USDA research found that 97% of people are failing to wash their hands properly. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. This short, animated video shows how to “Keep a Clean Scene” at home when preparing meals.
  2. Thaw foods safely: Thaw frozen ingredients in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. For safety, never thaw food at room temperature!
  3. Keep hot foods hot:  Place hot foods in chafing dishes, crock pots or warming trays at 140 °F or warmer.   Bacteria can multiple rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F.  Use a food thermometer to monitor the temperature and ensure food is being held at 140 °F or higher on your buffet.
  4. Keep cold foods cold: During your event, arrange and serve perishable foods on several small platters.  Put one platter on the buffet table and store the other platters in the fridge.  Swap them out every two hours.  Nest platters in bowls of ice on the buffet table.
  5. Handle leftovers safely:  Divide large portions of leftovers like beef, turkey, gravy, dressing, stews and casseroles into smaller portions in shallow containers. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours. A constant home refrigerator temp. of 40 °F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure your refrigerator temperature is at 40 °F or below. Eat leftovers within 3-4 days.

To help you Fight BAC!® (harmful bacteria) this holiday season, we’ve created a free flyer on food safety for home gatherings and buffets and a frozen foods for parties infographic.  This holiday season is the perfect time to share these tips for food poisoning prevention. 

Follow the Partnership for Food Safety Education on Facebook at @FightBAC and on Twitter at @FightBAC. More food safety resources are available free at StoryofYourDinner.org.

The Story of Your Dinner campaign is supported by Cargill, Costco Wholesale and the Frozen Food Foundation.  For more campaign information and resources, visit StoryofYourDinner.org

About the Partnership for Food Safety Education
The non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education is the creator and steward of the Fight BAC!® national food safety education campaign and the national leader in disseminating information around the linkage of food safety consumer education with positive health outcomes. Food safety and health educators, and consumers, can download free food safety education information from the Partnership’s website at www.fightbac.org.  

About Cargill
Cargill provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. Together with farmers, customers, governments and communities, the company helps people thrive by applying its insights and 152 years of experience. Cargill has 149,000 employees in 70 countries who are committed to feeding the world in a responsible way, reducing environmental impact and improving the communities where they live and work. For more information, visit Cargill.com.