Food safety important when preparing for group functions
This time of year, it’s not uncommon to be planning chili suppers or similar types of group fundraisers. Because the partakers of such functions represent such a broad segment of the population, some of who may have sensitive immune systems, it is important to consider safe food handling practices.
At home, we may practice varying degrees of food safety principles, but when serving food to others, it is important to be vigilant with food safety. The following could be considered the ‘Top 10” food safety practices.
Healthy food handlers: Do not allow sick food handlers to work with food, especially if the person has a diarrheal illness. Ensure that all food handlers are properly washing their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and plenty of soap. Food handlers should not touch ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands. Instead, use deli tissue, disposable gloves or cleaned and sanitized utensils. This eliminates possible contamination from the hands.
Cleaning and sanitizing: Ensure that all food contact surfaces are washed, rinsed and sanitized. If using a household dishwasher, be sure to not overload it and follow manufacturer’s directions. If manually washing dishes, a simple sanitizing solution in the final rinse water is one ounce of bleach per three gallons of water. Air dry all dishes that are manually washed, rinsed and sanitized.
Cooking thermometers: Make sure to keep food thermometers calibrated and clean before measuring the temperature of food. Whole muscle meats (roasts, loins, chops) should be cooked to at least 145 degrees, ground meats to at least 155 degrees and poultry to at least 165 degrees.
Avoid cross-contamination: Do not cross-contaminate raw meats, poultry and fish with ready-to-eat foods. Common cross-contaminated items may include cutting boards, knives, cooking utensils and hands.
Thawing: Thaw foods safely. Never thaw on the counter at room temperature. Use the following methods to ensure safe food while thawing: Thaw under running water (70 degrees or less) for less than two hours; Thaw in refrigerator at 41 degrees or less; Microwave as part of the cooking process.
Maintaining temperature: Keep all poultry, meat, dairy, cooked vegetables and dishes containing these ingredients at the proper temperature. Hot foods should be more than 135 degrees and cold foods should be less than 41 degrees.
Cooling: Cool foods quickly. To prevent the growth of bacteria, do not leave food out at room temperature. Foods need to be cooled from 135 degrees to 41 degrees within three to four hours. To achieve safe cooling, do not cool foods in large batches or plastic containers. Cut meats into smaller portions and move stews, soups, chili, etc., into small containers. Remember that plastic is an insulator and tends to keep heat in. Use metal or glass containers for cooling. An ice bath is an excellent way to cool foods rapidly.
Reheating: Reheat all food to 165 degrees within two hours. Stir the food while reheating to ensure the food is reheated uniformly. Make sure to check the temperature.
Transported Food and Buffets: All food that is transported or kept on a buffet should be kept hot (135 degrees or more) or cold (41 degrees or less) depending on the food.
Toxic Materials: Keep all toxic materials, such as cleaners, pesticides and medications, in a separate area far away from the food preparation areas.
For more info on food safety for a crowd, contact the Leavenworth County Extension office and request a copy of the guidebook “Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide for Food Safety.”