The Holiday Party Danger Every Host Needs to Know About

One of the best things about this time of year is gathering together with friends and family to eat delicious food.

But if you’re throwing a party, there’s something else you need to remember besides turning on the music and lighting the candles. You want to make sure you avoid giving your guests an unwelcome gift in the form of foodborne illness. As you celebrate, keep in mind these food safety tips:

While preparing the food …

Before handling any food, wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Also, be sure to wash surfaces that will come in contact with food, such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops.

When preparing fresh produce, rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool water and use a brush to remove dirt. Even if you plan to peel the produce before consuming, you should still wash it first.

When prepping frozen foods, thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave, but never at room temperature. And after food is thawed, be sure to cook immediately.

When cooking …

With any dishes involving meat, poultry and fish, use a food thermometer to check that it’s cooked to a safe internal temperature. Ground meats should hit 160 to 165 degrees, beef should hit 145 degrees and poultry needs to get to 165 degrees before it’s safe to eat.

If you’re preparing a recipe that calls for raw eggs, like egg nog, make sure to use pasteurized ones.

The two hour rule …

Most foods shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. You can have dishes out longer on your buffet if you use a chafing dish to keep hot foods hot (140 degrees or warmer) and serve cold foods in nesting dishes over bowls of ice.

Another way around this is to use smaller serving trays and replace the cold foods more frequently with fresh pieces out of the refrigerator. Only foods that are safe at room temperature, like roasted nuts, white bean dip and cookies can be left out all night long.

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