Food safety during holiday gatherings has always been very important to prevent food borne illness. This year, properly planning holiday gatherings can do even more to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe,” says Monica Hunt, a Clinical Dietitian at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC).
Tips for meal gatherings, to help prevent the spread of COVID 19.
Encourage guests to bring their own foods and beverages.
Wear a mask when preparing or serving food or within 6 feet of non-household members.
If you decided to do buffet style, limit the amount of people in line at one time, use disposable dishes and plastic ware. Make sure a new plate and cup are used on each trip through the buffet line.
Have each household sit at a table together and eat and drink the items they brought.
“It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” says Hunt, “remember, it is always important to follow food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne germs.”
General food safety tips when preparing foods for gatherings.
Do not cross contaminate. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, breads, vegetables, etc.
Wash hands often! Change gloves and wash hands between each new food preparation task.
Clean all fruits and vegetables in a clean sink before preparing.
Do not use your hands to mix foods. Always use utensils.
Do not put cooked foods back in the container the raw food came out of.
Cook foods to the proper temperatures:
- 140 degrees - hold hot foods at this temperature, reheat precooked ham
- 145 degrees - beef, pork, fish, lamb, veal
- 160 degrees - medium-done meats, raw eggs, dishes with eggs, ground ..]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]meats
- 165 degrees - stuffing, all poultry dishes, reheated leftovers, casseroles
- 170 degrees- well-done meats
Keep foods out of the danger zone as much as possible. DANGER ZONE for foods: 40-140 degrees. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When putting up leftovers, discard any foods that have been in the danger zone for more than two hours.
Wrap leftovers well or store in airtight storage containers.
Leftovers should be discarded after 3-4 days or frozen for 3-4 months. Discard after the length of time has passed. When reheating leftovers make sure they reach 165 degrees throughout before eating.