| August 08, 2013

It’s fun to get people together for at-home brunches, dinner parties, and outdoor picnics and barbecues, but hosts must remember to be cautious any time they serve food. Food safety is vital for happy, healthy guests and family members. The last thing homeowners want is to be responsible for getting someone sick due to improper food handling. Not only can it lead to litigation, but it makes it very hard to get anyone to come to another party!

Hygiene is the most important factor to preventing food-borne illness. Anyone preparing or serving food should have clean hands and should keep food prep and serving areas cleaned. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping plates and utensils used for raw meat away from any other foods until they’ve been washed with hot, soapy water.

Temperature is another important thing to watch in food safety. Foods have a “danger zone” temperature range of 40°F to 140°F where bacteria growth is most pronounced. Keep food out of this temperature range by adequately cooking it to a high temperature or by keeping it cool. Food is only safe to eat for about two hours within the “danger zone.” In outdoor settings where food is sitting out in temperatures above 90°F, food can only be safely left out for around an hour.

Once the party’s done, don’t leave those leftovers out all night. Extra food should be put away no more than two hours after it finished cooking. Make sure all the utensils and dishes used in cooking get cleaned, too. Leaving them out on the counters increases the risk of contamination.

Entertaining guests is a rewarding experience, but it does have its downsides. Should a guest contract food poisoning from a hosted event, the host can be held liable. A good home insurance policy will keep costs minimal if, despite all precautions, the unfortunate should happen. The best policy, of course, is to do everything possible to keep the food table safe in the first place!