Healthy Holidays: Serving Safe Appetizers

Healthy Holidays: Serving Safe Appetizers

Question: How long can food stay out when you are serving appetizers?

Answer: Holiday parties are always exciting! Making sure your guests go home happy (and don’t become sick) is important—here are a few things to keep in mind.

The Problem
Typically appetizers are served buffet-style and remain at room temperature for several hours—a perfect temperature for bacteria to grow and cause illness. Even though the food may look fine to eat, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to eat. Knowing how long food can stay out and what steps you can take to keep the food you serve safe is important.

The Solution
Most of the foods you’ll serve are hazardous—which means that bacteria will thrive on these foods given the right conditions (like enough time and the right temperature). High risk foods include fish, seafood, chicken, dairy, soy, eggs, meats and sliced melon. Foods like chips, breads, crackers, cookies and candy are considered lower risk foods. The high risk foods need to be well monitored to make sure they don’t stay at dangerous temperatures for too long (dangerous temperature are between 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit). The limit for hazardous foods to stay at dangerous temperatures (like room temperature) is 2 hours. After the 2 hour mark, foods should be tossed.

Another problem is when you refill the food. Combining old food that’s sitting out with new food is a common serving error made and is a type of cross-contamination. The bacteria that’s been thriving on the old stuff has now been dumped right into the new food. Instead serve small portions of food at a time and bring out fresh trays often.

At the end of the day, if you’re not sure what to do always remember the golden rule of food safety: when in doubt throw it out!

TELL TOBY: What are your food safety concerns come holiday time?

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