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Keeping Food Safe This Summer

Allie Dhuyvetter, R.D., Program Assistant, NDSU Extension Service

Now that summer is here, your church may be planning a fundraiser or other event where food is served. With the option to serve food outdoors and the increasing outdoor temperatures, it is a good time to note some key food safety issues.

Bacteria are present on all food. Some bacteria are harmless and some can become dangerous under the right conditions. When food is held at room temperature, bacteria multiply rapidly (specifically when internal food temperature is between 40ºF and 140ºF). Food poisoning risk increases when bacteria multiply to large numbers. This is why it is important to make sure hot foods reach safe internal temperatures before being eaten and why hot and cold foods needs to be handled properly to make sure that they stay hot and cold, respectively.

Hot foods should be cooked to a safe internal temperature. Test the temperature using a food thermometer. Check the temperature in multiple locations to ensure that the entire food product has reached an appropriate temperature. Safe internal temperatures include:


Safe Internal Temperature

All Poultry (ground, whole, breasts)




Egg dishes, sauces & custards


Ground Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork


Steaks, Roasts, Chops

145ºF with a 3 minute rest period


145ºF with a 3 minute rest period




Once hot foods have been heated to the proper temperature they should be held at 140ºF or above. Food may be placed on a serving line in chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays, or slow cookers to keep it hot. Check the temperature frequently to make sure the food remains hot. 

Before serving, foods should be kept cold in a refrigerator or cooler with ice. On the serving line, cold foods should be held at a temperature of 40ºF or less. Food that will be portioned out on the serving line should be placed in a container. The container should then be placed in a deep pan filled partially with ice. Foods such as desserts that are served in individual containers should also be placed in a pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice often.

Remember these tips to keep food safe at your next church function.


United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service. (2011). Cooking for groups: A volunteer’s guide to food safety. 

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