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Potlucks

Potlucks

Food Safety for Potlucks

Who doesn't love a potluck?! From school banquets to church suppers to family picnics, the easiest, economic way to feed a lot of people is for everyone to bring a dish to pass.

Unfortunately, bacteria that cause food-borne illness can also be passed with the food. Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way. Follow these steps to help keep your family and friends from becoming sick.

At home before you go:

  • Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Keep your food preparation surfaces and utensils clean. Wash them between different types of foods.
  • When deciding what to bring to the potluck, think about how long you have to travel.
    • If your travel time to the event is less than 30 minutes, bringing perishable items that are kept hot or cold is okay.
    • If your trips will take you over 30 minutes, bring non-perishable items such as bread, cookies, rolls, chips, etc.
  • Cook your foods to the proper temperature before you take them to the potluck.

On your way:

  • Hot foods
    • Wrap them in foil and heavy towels or a thermal blanket.
    • Use a container that is designed to carry foods keeping them hot.
    • Place your food in a Styrofoam chest.
  • Cold foods
    • Use a cooler with a lot of ice or use freezer packs in the cooler.

Once you arrive, determine when you will be eating.

If the food will not be served immediately:

  • Put cold foods in a refrigerator if one is available. If there is no refrigerator, check the cooler to make sure there is enough ice and put more in if needed.
  • Hot foods not being served right away should be put in the refrigerator and warmed up when ready to serve in the oven, microwave, or on the stove.

If the food will be served immediately:

  • Hot foods:
    • Use a crockpot or a hot plate to maintain the temperature.
    • Place hot foods in an oven, which is hot enough to keep foods at an internal temperature of 140°F until right before serving.
  • Cold foods:
    • Put the serving bowl in a larger bowl of ice.
    • Use a serving product designed to keep food cold.
    • Prepare several small dishes that can be put on the table as the food runs out. The extras should be kept in the refrigerator or cooler

Time to eat:

  • Do not leave perishable foods out on the table for longer than two hours.
  • Keep foods covered when they are not being served.
  • Keep ice for beverages separate from ice that has been used for keeping food cold.
  • Do not use plates or utensils for cooked food that has been used for raw food.
  • Be careful with leftovers! Throw them out if they have been sitting out over two hours, or you do not know how long they have been out on the table.

When it comes to food safety, remember "When in doubt, throw it out!"

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