NDSU Extension Service - Sargent County

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Hosting a Reception

05/06/16 Hosting a ReceptionIs there a graduation, anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion coming up in your future?  Most likely, food will be part of the celebration.  The last thing you’d want is for your guests to get sick from eating the food at your party.

 NDSU Extension has a variety of food safety resources available at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-safety.  Reliable guidance about the simple, practical steps you can follow to assure that the food you are serving is safe to eat can be found there.

Occasionally I meet someone who just shakes their head at food safety recommendations and tells me that they don’t go by them.  Invariably, sometime during that conversation they will say, “Well, it hasn't killed me yet."  I am always glad to hear that!  However, we might wonder if that person would object if a sign reading, “Eat at your own risk” was posted nearby the food they had prepared. 

It is worth remembering that other people sometimes eat the food we prepare, and to consider that they may be less resistant and more susceptible to foodborne illness than us. This is particularly true of young children, elderly, and any person of any age who is already health compromised due to sickness, disease, or medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.  So for their sake, it is well worth the effort for us to be diligent about food safety.

One of the four themes of food safety is “chill.”  If you prepare the hot food sometime during the week or more ahead of your reception, be sure to cook it thoroughly, then divide it into shallow containers less than two inches deep to put in a cold refrigerator.  This will help assure that it cools quickly to a safe temperature. Large containers don’t allow the food to cool to a safe temperature quickly enough, and bacteria multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40-140 degrees F.  The food can safely be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days if the air temperature inside the refrigerator is below 40 degrees F.  If you aren’t going to be reheating the food to serve it within three to four days of when it was cooked, freeze it in the shallow containers.  It will thaw faster in the refrigerator that way, too.

At room temperatures, in the house or in the garage, bacteria multiply quickly.  Therefore, “cold” food should be kept cold, and hot foods should be kept hot. Rather than putting out the cold food in big bowls on a buffet line, have a bed of ice to put smaller bowls into so that the food in the bowl stays cold.  The maximum amount of time for food to be at room temperature is two hours.  Keep hot foods hot on the buffet line by using warming tables, electric roasters, or slow cookers.

When bowls are nearing empty, remove them and whatever food is left in them.  Put out a fresh bowl of food to replace what was removed.  Do not dump new, fresh food into a bowl that’s been out on the food line, and do not scrape the food from the first bowl to plop it on top of the food in the fresh bowl.  In both cases, you risk cross-contamination and give bacteria a chance to keep on growing.  If there is some food left in the bowl that is being removed from the serving line, it can be discarded or re-refrigerated.  It should only be re-refrigerated if it was on the buffet line less than two hours and if it was kept cold the whole time.  Be sure to eat any leftovers within four days.  If refrigerated leftovers aren’t eaten or frozen within four days, they should be discarded.

More information about food safety, including the “Four Day” guideline for eating, freezing, or tossing leftovers, and a food safety app for Apple devices is available at http://food.unl.edu/food-safety.  For food safety videos, go to http://food.unl.edu/free-food-nutrition-fitness-and-food-safety-educational-powerpoints-and-handouts.

PHOTO CREDIT:   https://pixabay.com/en/graduation-cap-graduation-hat-coll-1301194/    (downloaded 05/06/16)

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