- The most important safety measure is to keep hands clean. Have a hand-washing station available with water, soap and clean towels if possible. If not, anti-bacterial towelettes or hand sanitizer will keep guests' hands clean and free from spreading contamination to serving spoons, trays and food.
- Marinate meats in the fridge instead of the countertop or outdoors. Food temperatures are almost impossible to regulate outside of the fridge, freezer, or a cooking device, and raw meats are especially susceptible to bacterial growth. Keep raw meats cool until cooking time.
- Invest in a meat thermometer and use it while grilling. Hamburger and beef should be cooked to 160 degrees, chicken 165 degrees, and pork 145 degrees. Plus, you'll avoid dry, overcooked meat! To keep hot foods safe for hours, they should maintain a temperature of 140 degrees. Wrapping them in foil and keeping them stored in an insulated container will give you the best results. (Yes, your insulated cooler will keep hot foods hot!)
- Cold foods should be kept at about 40 degrees to prevent bacterial growth. Salads containing mayonnaise or raw egg should be kept on ice.
- Food left out for more than two hours becomes increasingly dangerous to eat, since bacteria reproduces exponentially. If the temperature outside is above 90 degrees, that window is reduced to an hour. It can be difficult at a party to remember, but as soon as people are done eating, it's best to cover the food and transfer it to a cooler or fridge.
- Believe it or not, one of the best and easiest ways to prevent food borne illnesses at your outdoor party is to have plenty of plates, napkins, and utensils. A fresh plate and utensils for each course of food drastically reduces contamination and cross-contamination of food and bacteria.
- A healthy immune system wards off most problems, but pay close attention to those who are susceptible: the very young, the very old, pregnant women and anybody whose system is compromised in any way. Be especially vigilant if you have such guests in attendance.
Food Safety for Outdoor Parties
Outdoor parties are one of the highlights of summer and fall. But did you know? Foodborne illnesses actually increase in warmer months when we dine much more outdoors. Here are some simple guidelines to keep you and your family safe: