Here are a few safety tips for your holiday buffet to help keep yourself and your guests healthy:
1) It’s vital that you keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Allowing food to sit out at room temperature can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Use items such as warming trays, slow cookers, and chafing dishes to keep hot foods at a safe temperature of at least 140 degrees F. Pack cold foods in crushed ice to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees F. If you must keep food out at room temperature, keep track of how long it’s been sitting out. After 2 hours, it needs to be thrown out because at that point, the amount of bacteria in the food can begin doubling every 15 minutes.
2) Remember you don’t have to put out ALL the food that you’re serving at the very beginning. If possible, keep some in the refrigerator or on the stove/in the oven until you need to replenish the buffet. This will help place a limit on how long food is being left at room temperature.
3) Make sure you put out plenty of serving utensils – forks, spoons, ladles, tongs. There should be at least one per dish and a few extras are generally a good idea. And yes, you should put them out even for the finger foods (or use toothpicks) and for things like chips and candies. More people touching the food means more chances to introduce bacteria into it. Unfortunately, most people have really poor hand washing habits!