FOOD SAFETY - POTLUCK DINNERS
By Maj. Lisa O'Brien (Ph.D.), 149 FW Medical Group
/ Published December 18, 2008
LACKLAND AFB, Texas -- The holiday season brings plenty of opportunity to celebrate the season with co-workers, friends, and family. By following a few simple rules, you can keep everyone healthy and have happy memories of great get-togethers.
1. Absolute cleanliness during preparation - Extra attention to sanitation of cutting boards, knives, utensils is essential. While a few germs might "slither" off the raw chicken onto the carrot sticks at home - they don't have time to multiply into the thousands in the short walk from the kitchen to the table. Those same invisible germs waiting several hours or a day or more for serving time at a group potluck can pack a terrible wallop.
a. Bleach - 1 capful in one gallon of water - use to sanitize your cutting boards, knives etc when preparing all foods, but especially raw items.
b. Cross Contamination - Sanitize all surfaces and utensils between types of foods. Raw meats, processed meats like sandwich meats are ideal homes for bacteria.
2. Hot Foods Hot, Cold Foods Cold - Soups, Stews, taco meat, etc might be cooked day(s) before the party. Cooling these protein rich foods in the same containers as they were cooked (crockpots, stew pots etc) allows much of the food to be in the temperature DANGER ZONE (40ºF to 140ºF) too long. Bacteria LOVE to grow in those temperatures and will merrily await your guests at serving time. Not all bacteria are killed at reheating and some really awful toxins are unaffected by re-heating.
a. When done cooking - Immediately cool in shallow pans in the refrigerator or freezer. Food in the pan must not be more than 3 inches deep
b. NEVER double dip with the tasting spoon at ANY temperature
c. Cover food during the cooling process and keep covered
d. Transport the covered foods ON ICE (below 40degrees) - When reheating - reheat to serving temperature in a short time before serving
3. Know what you are eating- Get your food from the most trustworthy sources. Unit Potluck is not be the time to cook up the mystery meat your Uncle brought back from last year's hunting marathon. USDA inspected, trusted commercial stores with the freshest product are the best.
Biologic Warfare stew isn't the gift you want to be remembered for. Have a safe, happy and delicious holiday party season.