The Super Bowl is almost here, and as parties are being planned and menus selected, it’s important for party hosts and hostesses to practice safe food handling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year more than 48 million people become sick from some type of foodborne illness, and sadly, about 3,000 people die from complications due to foodborne illness. Don’t let unsafe food ruin the party.
Follow these safety guidelines to ensure that the party isn’t sidelined by improper food handling.
Raw And Cooked Foods
Consider foods to be the football teams of the kitchen. Raw food, cooked food, cold food, hot food, meat and produce are all things that should be kept separated to avoid cross-contamination. Most foodborne illnesses are killed by cooking to the proper temperature, but if a food is going to be served raw, such as veggies for an appetizer platter or burger toppings, they won’t be cooked to a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. So if a food is going to be served raw, it should not be prepared on a surface where raw meat has been prepared.
Hot And Cold Dishes
Just like raw and cooked food should be kept separate, hot food and cold food should be kept separate as well. This is because hot food should be kept hot to avoid the growth of bacteria, and cold food should be kept cold for the same reason. Most foodborne bacteria grow in something called the temperature “danger zone”, between 40?F and 140?F. So foods need to be held outside of these temperatures.
Foods shouldn’t be kept at room temperature for more than two hours because this is about how long it takes for food to reach the temperature danger zone. This is also critical when storing leftovers after the party.
Leftovers should be stored in shallow containers to ensure that they cool quickly when refrigerated. If food is stored in a deep container the center of the container can remain warm for several hours, even overnight, allowing dangerous bacteria to thrive and cause illness, even though the food was refrigerated.
Crock pots are great for preparing hot foods in advance and they do a great job holding foods at a safe temperature, provided they are used properly. In order to prevent a holding penalty when using a crock pot follow the following guidelines:
- Use the right size crock pot. Crock pots come in a variety of sizes and the appropriate size should be selected to ensure that food reaches safe temperatures in a safe time period.
- Don’t overfill the crock pot. Most manufacturers recommend filling the crock pot no more than two thirds full, again to ensure that food reaches safe temperatures quickly.
- Keep the lid on. While it may be tempting to go stirring the pot, don’t. When the lid is removed, heat is lost which can lead to foodborne illness. Food should be stirred and temperatures checked toward the end to ensure that temperatures don’t drop to a critical point when the food is uncooked.
- Don’t pre-prep a dish and store it in the crock pot liner. This leads to cross contamination. Ingredients should only be mixed together immediately before cooking.
- Don’t store leftovers in the crock pot liner. It takes too long for the liner to cool and allows foot to stay in the danger zone for too long.
Make Sure You Call Your Own Timeouts
It’s important to take a timeout from the game to check the temperature of dishes. Digital food thermometers are affordable and easy to use and available in most grocery and department stores. The thermometer should be inserted into the center of the dish, but not touching the bottom, to ensure that the center of the dish has reached the proper temperature.
If the thermometer touches the bottom of the dish, especially if the dish is still over the heat source the thermometer could read higher than the dish actually is due to the temperature of the heat source, giving the impression that the dish is cooked when it may not be. This can lead to foodborne illness by allowing bacteria to grow in the temperature danger zone.
Illegal Use Of Hands Penalties
Hand washing is the first line of defense against foodborne illness. A person’s hands come in contact with hundreds of germ ridden surfaces each day, and those germs can be transferred to food, making everyone at the Super Bowl party sick. So those who are handling food should wash their hands with warm water and antibacterial soap before handling any food. It’s important to know that not all germs that live on the hands can be killed by cooking, which is why washing hands with antibacterial soap is so essential.
Hands also need to be washed after handling raw meat and before handling anything else. This will avoid cross contamination between meats and other foods, such as produce. Don’t be afraid to call a penalty on someone who is violating this “clean hands” rule.
By following this playbook of food safety, party hosts and hostesses as well as party goers can kick back and cheer on their favorite team without any worry about becoming sickened by the delicious food they’re eating.