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University of Minnesota Extension

Food safety and summer parties

July 24, 2017

Send your guests home with nothing but good memories. 

As warm weather and signature events draw us outdoors for social gatherings, a few quick reminders from the University of Minnesota Extension food safety team can help keep gatherings safe.

Warm temperatures create ideal conditions for bacteria to grow in food – a process that accelerates at a rate befitting a sci-fi tale. The results can range from highly unpleasant to life-threatening.

“Bacteria double every 20 minutes. You quickly get to the point where the bacteria are out of control and likely to cause food illness” says Katherine Brandt, Extension food science educator. “Potato salad gets the bad rap when it comes to summer and food safety. Actually, any food item can put us at risk if it isn’t handled properly.” 

With graduations, cookouts and other festivities kicking into high gear, these steps can help ensure guests’ safety.

  1. Wash, wash, wash. Always wash hands and food contact surfaces with hot soapy water before and after working with food.  
  2. Keep ready-to-eat foods – cooked items, fruits, vegetables – separate from raw meat and poultry. Use a clean plate and utensils when removing cooked foods from the grill.
  3. Use a food thermometer to be sure meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature. For cuts of beef, pork, veal or lamb, 145 degrees is required (with a three-minute rest time). Ground meat must be at 160 degrees. For all poultry, 165 degrees is necessary for safety.   
  4. Don’t let perishable foods sit out for more than two hours – and only one hour when the temperature is 90 degrees and higher. 
  5. Keep cold food on ice. Serve it throughout the gathering from smaller platters that are kept in the refrigerator. Use heated serving containers for hot foods, which must be 140 degrees or above to prevent bacteria growth.

“When you’re hosting a gathering, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Have a designated person be in charge of replenishing the table with the smaller bowls of perishable foods,” Brandt says. “It’s a great way to both keep food safe and allow hosts to visit with their guests.”

Visit Extension's Food Safety website for a wide array of information.


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