The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends during office parties, holiday buffets and potluck dinners. But, improperly prepared or handled foods can be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses if the food is not properly handled.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has food safety tips to ensure that the foods you share with your friends and family keep everyone in the holiday spirit.
Transporting Your Holiday Dish:
If you’re transporting a meal from one location to another, temperature is important. When transporting hot dishes, wrap them well and pack in an insulated container. Upon arrival, use the stove, oven, or microwave to reheat food to 165 °F. When transporting cold foods, use a cooler with ice or freezer gel packs. Be sure to store food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water and carry your cooler in the trunk, which is usually colder than other parts of the car.
Serving Your Meal:
When serving your meal, keep foods out of the “danger zone” by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you are serving hot foods on a buffet, keep the foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Make sure they are heated to at least 165 °F. Cold foods can be kept cold by nesting the serving dishes into bowls of ice or use small serving trays with smaller portions of food and replace as needed. It’s important that cold foods are held at 40 °F or colder.
After the fun is over, don’t forget to discard all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, and casseroles left at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Immediately refrigerate or freeze remaining leftovers in shallow containers. USDA’s FoodKeeper app provides more details about how long leftovers can be stored, with storage guidance on more than 400 items and cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov and follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.