Whether it’s the turkey, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, grandma’s special tamales, auntie’s sweet potato pie, uncle’s cioppino or cousin’s sticky mango rice flan, an all-day buffet has the potential for not only weight gain but foodborne illness. While we can’t control what is brought or how the food was made to a potluck meal, we can be watchful of situations that can spread the growth of pathogens or toxins released by bacteria – agents that can make you miss your Friday shopping adventure.
Here are a few definitions about food:
- Potentially hazardous food: foods that require temperature control to limit sickness causing bacteria or toxin formation by the bacteria
- Danger Zone: temperature of potentially hazardous food (41-135°F) that will support and encourage growth of bacteria and their waste products (toxins).
- Toxins: sometimes a waste product by bacteria that can be heat stable and not made safe by merely reheating.
Here are a few tips for your Thanksgiving potluck:
- Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the danger zone (41-135°F) by using chafing dishes to keep hot (+135°F), or iced bowls to keep cold (-41°F) (examples include: potato salad, gravy)
- Keep these foods no more than 2 hours out of danger zone.
- Cover foods on the serving table whenever possible.
- Refrigerate potentially hazardous food in shallow containers to cool rapidly when not serving.
- Reheat leftovers quickly and thoroughly to 165°F.
- Don’t let little cousin play with the buffet food.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before returning to a food area, especially after using the restroom, smoking, changing a diaper, etc…
- If you overeat, it may not be the pathogens that get you!
For more information about turkey cooking, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). On Thanksgiving Day, the Hotline will be open from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Eastern Time or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. Ask Karen, the virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7. Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST.
Happy Gobble Gobble!