It's that time of year again when we get together frequently with others for potlucks and barbecues to celebrate everything from birthdays and weddings to graduations and holidays. Potlucks are a great way to gather and socialize with friends, family and co-workers, but without proper food handling, they can also, unfortunately, result in people getting sick, cautions Laura Krause, Family & Consumer Science agent for Colorado State University Extension in Pueblo County. Below are a few easy tips to make sure you keep your friends and families safe while still enjoying the festivities!
If potable water is not available where the event will be hosted, bring along a clean water source that will be dedicated to food prep and cleaning. And don't forget to bring soap and paper towels!
Before preparing, serving or eating food, wash your hands and encourage others to do so. Supply disposable hand sanitizing wipes if a sink is not available.
Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower; use an ice-filled cooler to transfer and serve things such as salads, dips, relish platters and desserts. Keep desserts cold until ready to serve. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter; transfer and serve them using an insulated container, slow cooker, chafing dish or roaster oven.
Bring clean serving utensils and keep utensils separate for each dish to lower the risk of cross-contamination.
Leftovers are a big thing at my house with only two of us now and I HATE to see food being wasted, so plan ahead and monitor potluck and BBQ food items to keep them safe.
Note the time that perishable foods are in the "Temperature Danger Zone" - between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit - and remember the "Two-Hour Rule": If prepared foods are in the "Danger zone" for more than two hours, they should be discarded! And in hot weather (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), perishable foods should be eaten, refrigerated or discarded within one hour.
If perishable foods are in the 'danger zone' for less than 2 hours (or one hour if above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), pack them in food storage bags or shallow containers, and refrigerate or keep cold in a cooler filled with ice until you get home.
Reheat cooked leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating and discard all leftovers within three to four days. Enjoy the wonderful (if not super hot!) summer with your friends, neighbors and relatives - just be sure to keep your food safe!
If you would like further information on food safety, please contact the Elbert County Master Food Safety Advisers at the Elbert County Extension Office at 303-621-3162.
Elbert County Extension is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and Elbert County government. Sheila G. Kelley is the Colorado State University extension director for Elbert County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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