Food safety tips to follow during special events

The California Poison Control System reminds Californians that September is Food Safety Education Month. It’s also the month that marks the beginning of many gatherings with friends and family, almost all of which include eating and drinking. Unfortunately, uninvited guests — in the form of foodborne germs — can spoil the fun when they crash the special event and party buffets.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick from food poisoning every year, with about 128,000 hospitalizations and approximately 5,000 deaths.

“Food poisoning is extremely preventable,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Medical Director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS. “By following simple handling, cooking and storage suggestions, families can stay healthy and enjoy the fun.”

To keep food safe, Dr. Vohra suggests the following tips when cooking, preparing or serving food for large groups:

Keep foods separated. Meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs need to be separate from all other foods, both at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood from dripping or leaking onto other foods by keeping them in containers or sealed plastic bags. Store eggs in their original carton in the refrigerator.

Cook food thoroughly. Follow cooking instructions and directions for standing time, the extra time food should rest after removing it from the oven or grill. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs are cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill germs.

Keep food out of the “danger zone.” Bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. After food is prepared, keep hot food hot (140°F or warmer) on the buffet table by using slow cookers, chafing dishes, and warming trays. Keep cold food cold (40°F or below) by replacing often with fresh platters from the refrigerator or by placing serving dishes in bowls of ice.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking. Divide leftovers into smaller portions to cool faster. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator in small portions. The temperature in the refrigerator should be set at 40°F or below and the freezer at 0°F or below.

Keep it clean. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds during these key times when germs are more likely to be picked up and spread:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before eating food.
  • After handling pet food, pet treats, or touching pets.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After touching garbage.

About CPCS
Call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available.  Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish. Follow CPCS on Facebook and on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.