Gathering with friends and family for a celebration is always a great time. But preparing a lot of food for a lot people can get risky, especially when you’re catering during the holidays and your guests can be so diverse, from young children and pregnant women to vegetarian friends and senior family members. In this post, we share with you some tips in food safety.
Why Food Safety is important
- The average home kitchen isn’t designed for cooking for large numbers of people
- Guests often bring food to share, which means food might have been out of the fridge for a few hours (time when bacteria could multiply)
- Most people start preparing food well ahead of an event. Things like casseroles or desserts need to be carefully prepared and then chilled or frozen quickly.
As with big get-togethers, make a plan of who cooks what and where.
- Cooking time. After deciding your menu, organise to cook the riskier foods like meat and seafood on site where the get-together is going to take place.
- Guests. Ask guests who are travelling more than an hour to bring safer foods that don’t need refrigeration or keep hot, such as cakes, biscuits, etc. If they like to cook, they can always come earlier and help you in your kitchen.
If they live less than an hour away they can bring food in an insulated bag and make sure it’s reheated before serving. They could also bring refrigerated salads and desserts – just make sure they pack them in a cooler or esky straight from the fridge and just before leaving the house.
If you are having a BBQ and they want to bring along some goods – any raw meat or poultry should be packed at the bottom of the cooler in an enclosed plastic container where it can’t drip onto other foods.
When preparing food, keep in mind any allergies, food sensitivities and preferences. If you are preparing food for children, the elderly, someone who is ill or pregnant, keep in mind that these groups are more susceptible to foodborne illness than others. Extra care should be taken in preparing their food.
- Make sure your kitchen and utensils are clean and that everyone washes and dries their hands before, during and after handling food. Also, remember not to use the same utensils for raw meats as those used with cooked meats.
- Seafood. Buy your seafood last when shopping and get your fishmonger to pack your esky or cooler bag with ice to keep it cool. Prawns should be eaten within three days of purchase and already-opened oysters within 24 hours.
- Be extra careful and avoid dishes that contain raw eggs in your menu. Food poisoning bugs can grow and thrive quickly in foods containing raw egg and hot weather is not the best time to be testing out a new chocolate mousse recipe. Try to avoid raw or minimally cooked egg dishes, such as mayonnaise, aioli, tiramisu and egg nog.
Before shopping for food, make sure there is enough room in the fridge to keep cold food at or less than 4 degrees Celsius:
- Store cooked products above raw products to avoid contamination from dripping foods
- Food can be out of the fridge for a maximum of 4 hours; if longer discard the food.
- Refrigerate left overs immediately after the meal and use within three days
- Cover food. The only time food should be uncovered is when you’re eating it.
Household fridges aren’t typically very large and you may run out of space if guests are also bringing food which needs to be cool until ready to eat, so what do you do?
- Take out the drinks. Most drinks can’t make you sick if they are inadequately cooled but food can. Fill the laundry sinks and insulated containers or buckets with ice to keep beer and soft drinks chilled.
- Jars of pickles, chutneys and bottled sauces that have vinegar in them can come out too because they won’t be a problem outside the fridge for a couple of days
- Whole fruit and whole raw veges can survive in the fruit bowl or cupboard before they’re sliced and diced
- If you still don’t have enough space, consider getting some extra large eskies or hiring an extra fridge or mobile cold room (extra helpful for large get togethers)