6 Tips for Better Holiday Food Safety

by in Healthy Holidays, Our Dietitian

Happy holidays! Let’s keep them that way with food safety guidelines that keep your family and friends safe. From a day of baking to the holiday office party, we’ve got you covered with tips and resources to ensure your holiday is all joy and cheer.

These savory Rosemary Goat Cheese Muffins are a fantastic alternative to extra sweets at a holiday party: mind the time out of the fridge and work with fresh flour for the best results.

1. Keep flour fresh.

Start the baking season with a fresh bag of flour. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reminds us that that flour has good potential for being contaminated. It may not look unsafe, but older flour has a greater risk of being contaminated with E Coli (just ask the folks who were impacted by the significant E Coli contaminated flour in 2016). Another reason to discard older flour (and buy it in smaller quantities) is the potential for weevils, or “flour bugs.” Yup, that’s a real (gross!) thing.

2. Herbs, spices and extracts expire.

Store herbs and spices in a tightly capped container away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight to maintain their freshness. Do not freeze dried herbs and spices, as inconsistent temperatures (from taking them in/out of freezer) can cause them to degrade quickly.

Extracts and spices have a “best buy” date.  In addition, McCormick offers this “shelf-life” guideline:

  • Ground Spices – 2 to 4 years
  • Whole Spices – 4 years
  • Extracts & Food Colors – 4 years

Strictly speaking, with these items the “best buy” date is about flavor more than safety, but making sure you’re working with the freshest ingredients will improve the quality of your holiday treats.

3. Know the golden 2-hour rule.

How long should that cheese board be out?

The folks at DairyGood.org offers terrific tips for buying, storing and putting out the perfect plate of cheese. The bottom line is that cheese needs about 20-30 minutes to come to room temperature for serving and then can sit out for only one and a half hours.

4. Time the buffet.

Yup, the 2-hour rule applies here too. This safe serving round-up from the FDA has all the scoop you need to ensure your guests are safe, such as the correct portions to put out, the best warming temp for back up foods and of course how to keep your eye on the clock.

5. Time the creamer.

Hosting a cookie exchange or “dessert” party? It’s easy to lose track of time and have that coffee station out for more than two hours. Rather than trying to use ice to keep creamer or milk cool, it’s best to use a chilled server and intentionally fill it with less creamer than you need so that you can replenish during the party.

6. Provide labels at the potluck party.

Whether it’s an office holiday party, a classroom gathering, or any other pot luck get-together, food safety needs to be considered. Label any allergens and group foods with like temperatures together to ensure that temperatures are monitored. If possible request small portions so that “back up” portions can be chilled or warmed until needed. Keep in mind that even slow cookers need to be handled carefully and properly.

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