The Holiday Buffet

holiday Holiday buffets are a popular way to entertain, but these kinds of food service, where foods are left out for long periods of time, can be a health hazard.

Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline to help you have a safe holiday party.

Safe Food Handling
Always serve food on clean plates — not those previously holding raw meat and poultry. Otherwise, bacteria which may have been present in raw meat juices can cross contaminate the food to be served.

Cook Thoroughly
If you are cooking holiday foods ahead of time for your party, be sure to cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Use Shallow Containers to Store Holiday Foods
Divide holiday cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 °F. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200-250 °F) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. This way foods will be held at a safe temperature for a longer period of time. REPLACE empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Many people’s hands may have been taking food from the dish, which has also been sitting out at room temperature.

The Two-Hour Rule for Holiday Buffets
Holiday foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything there two hours or more.

Keep Hot Foods HOT And Cold Foods COLD
Hot foods should be held at 140 °F or warmer. On the buffet table you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 40 °F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them.

Foodborne Bacteria
Bacteria are everywhere but a few types especially like to crash parties. Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes frequent people’s hands and steam tables. And unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful or pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Prevention is safe food handling.

If illness occurs, however, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.

Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus (“staph”) bacteria are found on our skin, in infected cuts and pimples, and in our noses and throats. They are spread by improper food handling. Prevention includes washing hands and utensils before preparing and handling foods and not letting prepared foods — particularly cooked and cured meats and cheese and meat salads — sit at room temperature more than two hours. Thorough cooking destroys “staph” bacteria but staphylococcal enterotoxin is resistant to heat, refrigeration and freezing.

Clostridium perfringens
Perfringens” is called the “cafeteria germ” because it may be found in foods served in quantity and left for long periods of time on inadequately maintained steam tables or at room temperature. Prevention is to divide large portions of cooked foods such as beef, turkey, gravy, dressing, stews and casseroles into smaller portions for serving and cooling. Keep cooked foods hot or cold, not lukewarm.

Listeria monocytogenes
Because Listeria bacteria multiply, although slowly, at refrigeration temperatures, these bacteria can be found in cold foods typically served on buffets. To avoid serving foods containing Listeria, follow “keep refrigerated” label directions and carefully observe “sell by” and “use by” dates on processed products, and thoroughly reheat frozen or refrigerated processed meat and poultry products before consumption.

Keep your holiday safe by practicing food safety guidelines.


Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy developed and published the following message about foods to avoid while pregnant.

foodsBecause pregnancy affects your immune system, you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are in some foods and can cause foodborne illness. Even if you don’t feel sick, some “bugs” like Listeria and Toxoplasma can infect your baby and cause serious health problems. Your baby is also sensitive to toxins from the foods that you eat, such as mercury in certain kinds of fish.

Keep this checklist handy to help ensure that you and your unborn baby stay healthy and safe. Be sure to invest in a food thermometer to check the temperatures of cooked foods.

Don’t Eat These Foods Why What to Do
Soft CHEESES made from unpasteurized milk, including Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, and queso fresco May contain E. coli or Listeria. Eat hard cheeses, such as cheddar or Swiss. Or, check the label and make sure that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk.
Raw COOKIE DOUGH or CAKE BATTER May contain Salmonella. Bake the cookies and cake. Don’t lick the spoon!
Certain kinds of FISH, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (golden or white snapper) Contains high levels of mercury. Eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish.Limit consumption of albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.
Raw or undercooked FISH (sushi) May contain parasites or bacteria. Cook fish to 145° F.
Unpasteurized JUICE or cider (including fresh squeezed) May contain E. coli. Drink pasteurized juice. Bring unpasteurized juice or cider to a rolling boil and boil for at least 1 minute before drinking.
Unpasteurized MILK May contain bacteria such as Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. Drink pasteurized milk.
SALADS made in a store, such as ham salad, chicken salad, and seafood salad. May contain Listeria. Make salads at home, following the food safety basics: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Raw SHELLFISH, such as oysters and clams May contain Vibrio bacteria. Cook shellfish to 145° F.
Raw or undercooked SPROUTS, such as alfalfa, clover, mung bean, and radish May contain E. coli or Salmonella. Cook sprouts thoroughly.

Be Careful with These Foods Why What to Do
Hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, fermented or dry sausage, and other deli-style meat and poultry May contain Listeria. Even if the label says that the meat is precooked, reheat these meats to steaming hot or 165° F before eating.
Eggs and pasteurized egg products Undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella. Cook eggs until yolks are firm. Cook casseroles and other dishes containing eggs or egg products to 160° F.
Eggnog Homemade eggnog may contain uncooked eggs, which may contain Salmonella. Make eggnog with a pasteurized egg product or buy pasteurized eggnog. When you make eggnog or other egg-fortified beverages, cook to 160°F
Fish May contain parasites or bacteria. Cook fish to 145° F.
Ice cream Homemade ice cream may contain uncooked eggs, which may contain Salmonella. Make ice cream with a pasteurized egg product safer by adding the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heating the mixture thoroughly..
Meat: Beef, veal, lamb, and pork (including ground meat) Undercooked meat may contain E. coli. Cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts to 145° F. Cook pork to 160° F. Cook all ground meats to 160° F.
Meat spread or pate Unpasteurized refrigerated pates or meat spreads may contain Listeria. Eat canned versions, which are safe.
Poultry and stuffing (including ground poultry) Undercooked meat may contain bacteria such as Campylobacter or Salmonella. Cook poultry to 165° F. If the poultry is stuffed, cook the stuffing to 165° F. Better yet, cook the stuffing separately.
Smoked seafood Refrigerated versions are not safe, unless they have been cooked to 165° F. Eat canned versions, which are safe, or cook to 165° F.

Eat foods that are good for you and have a healthier pregnancy!


Halloween Food Safety Tips


The Partnership for Food Safety Education ( offers the following tips for preventing foodbourne bacteria this Halloween:

  • Keep all perishable food chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, cut fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frosting. Cold temperatures help keep most bacteria from multiplying.
  • To keep store-bought party trays cold, fill lids with ice and place trays on top.  Similarly, keep salads and other perishable items in bowls cold by nesting them in larger bowls of ice.
  • Arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let platters of food sit out for too long.  Don’t leave perishable goodies out for more than two hours at room temperature (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

  • When whipping up Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs.
  • Beware of  unpasteurized juice or cider that can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Serve only pasteurized products at your Halloween party.
  • Remind kids (and adults too!) to wash their hands before and after eating to help prevent foodborne illness.
  • Bobbing for Apples – Try a new spin on bobbing for apples. Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper.  Write activities for kids to do on each apple, such as “say ABCs” or “do 5 jumping jacks”. Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string or create a fishing pole with a dowel rod, magnet and yarn.  Let the children take turn “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple.
  •  Give children a fresh apple for participating in your food safe version of bobbing for apples .


Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator


September is National Food Safety Education Month and consumers need to know that myths about keeping food safe in the refrigerator aren’t true.

Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.

Fact:  Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.  And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.

As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40 °F, putting them in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick!

Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to tell if your refrigerator is at 40 °F or below. And if it isn’t?  Use that dial to adjust the temperature so it will be colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Myth 2:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

Fact:  Bacteria can survive and some even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact, Listeria bacteria can grow at temperatures below 40 °F! A recent study showed the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Clean up food and beverage spills immediately, and
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap.  Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator walls and undersides of shelves!

Myth 3: I left some food out all day, but if I put it in the refrigerator  now, the bacteria will die.

Fact:   Refrigerator temperatures can slow the growth of bacteria, but will not stop the growth of bacteria in food. 

If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, putting it into the refrigerator will only slow bacterial growth, not kill it. Protect your family by following the 2-hour rule—refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 ºF.

While refrigeration does slow bacterial growth, most perishables will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. To keep perishables longer than a few days—like most meat, poultry and seafood—you can freeze them.

Myth 4:  I don’t need to clean my refrigerator produce bin because I only put fruit and vegetables in there.

FACT:   Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

A recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment was the #1 “germiest” area in consumers’ kitchens!  To prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, it is essential to clean your produce bin and other bins in your refrigerator often with hot water and liquid soap, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth towel or allow to air dry outside of the refrigerator.

For more myths and facts about food safety, go to:



Keeping Tailgating Safe…Tips from NSF International

NSF International wants Americans to enjoy tailgating before and after the game.

I’s that time again…time for watching live sports and tailgating.

Here are some tips NSF International wants you to keep in mind when tailgating:

1. Avoid false starts.
Bringing a meat thermometer to the game will help you avoid taking food off the grill too soon and serving it undercooked to your fellow fans. You can’t rely on your eyes alone, so use an NSF International -certified food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to the proper minimum internal temperature:

  • Whole or ground poultry — 165º F
  • Ground meats (other than poultry) — 160º F
  • Fresh fin fish — 145º F
  • Fresh whole (not ground) pork, beef, veal — 145º F with a three-minute rest time

2. Put your marinade on the sidelines.
When preparing for the big day, keep your marinade in bounds. If you need some for basting, do not use marinade that has come into contact with raw meat. Instead, set aside a small amount of prepared marinade in a separate dish and bring it to the game.

3. Play defense.
NSF International suggests taking defensive measures to protect you and your family against germs by:

  • Bringing wet wipes and hand sanitizer to the game. Make sure you sanitize your hands frequently, especially after putting raw meat on the grill and before eating.
  • Bringing two sets of utensils and dishes if grilling raw meat — one for use with raw foods, the other for cooked foods.
  • Having a plastic bag handy to store dirty utensils or dishes that have touched raw meats to prevent spreading germs in a cooler or in your car after the pre-game meal.

4. Prepare for kickoff.
Cooking outside makes it challenging to avoid cross-contamination. Prepare for the big day by packing three coolers: one for your raw meats, another with your pre-made foods (e.g. potato salad, vegetables) and a third for your beverages. Pack the food at the bottom of the cooler and the ice on top to better insulate the food and keep it at a safe temperature of 40° F. Pack beverages in a separate cooler to avoid frequent opening of the coolers containing perishable foods.

5. Don’t let your food go into overtime.

While it’s tempting to display your game day food spread, it should not be left out for more than two hours (or one hour on days over 90° F) to avoid bacterial growth. Keep perishable foods in coolers to help keep them at safe temperatures as long as you can, and don’t take them out until right before it’s time to eat.

6. Create a neutral zone.

Come prepared with trash bags and create a neutral area to dispose of garbage, empty cans or bottles, and unwanted leftovers. Keep your tailgating area neat and avoid placing glass bottles on the ground where they could be tripped on or broken. When game time is over, throw out your garbage on your way out of the stadium if possible rather than leaving it in your car where bacteria can grow and spread to other surfaces in your car.

“Tailgating is a fun way to celebrate before watching your favorite team play, but can be ruined if you don’t follow the rules of food safety,” said Luptowski. “These tips will keep food poisoning at bay, and help make the pre-game experience a safe and happy one.”

Additional food safety information can be found by visiting NSF International at or contacting the NSF Consumer Affairs Office at

About NSF International: NSF International ( has been testing and certifying products for safety, health and the environment for nearly 70 years. As an independent, public health and safety organization, NSF international is committed to protecting and improving human health on a global scale. NSF protects families by testing and certifying thousands of consumer goods each year, including kitchen products and appliances, personal care products, dietary and sport supplements, bottled water, toys, pool and spa equipment, water treatment systems, plumbing fixtures and many other products used in homes every day. Look for the NSF mark on products you purchase.

Operating in more than 150 countries, NSF International is committed to protecting families worldwide and is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. In addition, NSF also and certifies organic food and personal care products through Quality Assurance International (QAI).



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