Keeping the Holidays Free of Foodborne Pathogens: The Danger Zone
December 19, 2016
By: Samantha Cooper, Manager, Food Safety and Quality Assurance
If you haven’t already attended a holiday event, the time is likely approaching for your office to throw an end of the year celebration. If you’ve signed up to bring in a dish, keep the following food safety tips in mind:
Keep Hot Food Hot
This first tip may seem like a no brainer, but your famous casserole and other hot dishes are best served immediately and need to be kept above 140⁰F. If you’re unable to serve right after cooking use an insulated bag to keep the dish hot while commuting to work. Transfer the food into a slow cookers, warming trays, or heated chafing dishes to keep hot food hot – but only if the food is already hot! Slow cookers and other warming devices should not be used to reheat food, since it allows the food to linger in the Danger Zone for too long.
If food that can support microbial growth stays in the Danger Zone, between 40⁰F and 140⁰F, for more than 2 hours, it should be thrown away. This provides a perfect environment for food pathogens to grow and consuming the food could cause illness.
Keep Cold Food Cold
Just like our hot casserole staying out of the danger zone and above 140⁰F, cold food must remain cold and below 40⁰F. Depending on where you live during the winter months, keeping food below 40⁰F may be easy, and transporting the dish to work poses no problems. For those in a warmer climate, utilize a cooler with ice packs to keep your food safe and out of the Danger Zone. Once at the office, store food in the refrigerator until ready to serve, and remember to toss any leftovers after two hours.
Good luck on your next holiday gathering. And remember that ready-to-eat foods that don’t require refrigeration, such as cookies, crackers, bread, and whole fruit, are exempt from the Danger Zone rule.