"Over the years I've heard from so many weight loss surgery patients that their sensitivity to food illness increased after surgery. The best way to prevent food illness is to ensure the proper safe food handling steps are taken with all the food we prepare and eat." Kaye Bailey
Today we continue our series on food safety with a focus on food and events that are most common during the winter holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Years.
The Office Holiday Party: Keeping Food SafeToday's article in our food safety series takes a look at the office holiday party. Often the holiday party is potluck with everyone contributing a dish to the meal. Few offices are equipped for food service so keeping the food in the proper environment may be difficult. Here are tips from the Foodsafety.gov blog by Amelia Kermis, MPH CHES, Food Safety Education Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA. Link to original article.
"Keep Hot Food Hot. Hot items are best served immediately after cooking or reheating. If you plan on serving a hot item at the office party, take it straight from the oven and either place it in an insulated bag or hot food carrier. If you can’t serve it as soon as you arrive, return it to the oven. Alternatively, you can completely chill the item and transport it according to Tip 2. Once you arrive at the office reheat it using a microwave, stove, or oven to 165 °F.
Keep Cold Food Cold. Cold items should remain in the refrigerator for as long as possible. When transporting cold dishes, place items in a cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. A refrigerator thermometer in the cooler is a useful way to make sure items remain at proper chill temperature of 40 °F or below.
Use Several Small Platters. For both hot and cold items, arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on large platter. This way you can hold food at safe temperatures (cold foods below 40 °F and hot foods above 140 °F) until party-goers are ready to eat it.
Keep Track of Time. Keep track of how long items have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything out longer than two hours. You never want to leave perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles in the “Danger Zone” over two hours. The danger zone is between 40 and 140 °F where bacteria multiply rapidly. After two hours, enough bacteria may have grown in your food to make party-goers sick. Exceptions to the danger zone include ready-to-eat items like cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruit."
After: Don't Lose Food in the FridgeAfter the party take home or discard the left over food you provided and encourage others to do so as well. We have all see the office refrigerator become a no-man's land of containers harboring relics of the past. In fact, OSHA often cites the office refrigerator as one of the most hazardous places in the office. Workers in California found out the hard way that a refrigerator used as a receptacle for unwanted and forgotten food can be hazardous to their health. In May 2009 the AT&T call center in San Jose was evacuated of 325 employees. Fifty firefighters with 18 emergency vehicles responded to the call. Twenty-eight sickened employees received first aid or were transported to the emergency room. The cause? Unidentifiable left-overs gone rogue in the office refrigerator.
Food safety isn't just for your home kitchen. Take it to work with you as well!
For more great food safety tips check out these previous articles:
Clean Your Refrigerator DayThanksgiving Food Safety
Thaw Turkey Safely
Keeping Buffet Food Safe