Avoid food poisoning at your office party

Holding food for an office party can be a recipe for disaster.

'Tis the season for office parties!  Many offices are hosting pot luck lunches, or some type of get-together in the next couple of weeks. It is important to remember a few food safety tips to prevent an early exit in the afternoon due to some intestinal distress caused by improperly prepared or held food.


Before setting up your food tables, or getting out the food, wash hands and food contact surfaces.

Keep hot food hot

That being said, remember it is best to serve hot foods immediately. If you prepared your awesome hot wings at 6:00 a.m. and brought them to work, do you have a plan to keep them hot until the lunch?  Ideally there should be a refrigerator to keep the food cold and an oven to properly re-heat the food at lunch time. You should avoid keeping them in some kind of insulated bag that will not maintain a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher until you are ready to serve.  If you are transporting in a slow cooker, make sure you have maintained a high temp during your commute. Remember if you are re-heating (microwave, stove or oven) food should be reheated to 165 F.

Keep cold food cold

Utilize a refrigerator, cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Do not rely on the weather to keep your cold foods cold. A refrigerator thermometer in your cooler is a good way to determine if items have remained at or below 40 F to remain safe.

Use several small platters

When setting up to serve food, whether hot or cold, serve food on small dishes. This allows you to hold food at safe temperatures until everyone is ready to eat.  Everyone gets fresh food if they can’t all eat at once!

Keep track of the time

As much as we all want the party to last all day, perishable food cannot sit out all day. You never want to leave perishable foods, such as meat, poultry eggs and casseroles in the “Danger Zone” over two hours. The Danger Zone is between 40 and 140 F where bacteria multiply most rapidly.  After two hours, enough bacteria may have grown in your food to make people sick. Food that is safe to leave out at room temperature includes: cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruit.

Michigan State University Extension offers information on food safety at their website, avoid food poisoning at your office get-togethers by following a few simple steps.

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