A popular way to celebrate holidays or any party occasion is to cook a lot of food and invite friends and family. However, this type of food service – where foods are left out for long periods – leaves the door open for uninvited guests – bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Festive times for giving and sharing should not include sharing foodborne illness.
When preparing for your special event, remember that there may be an invisible enemy ready to strike. It’s called BAC (bacteria) and it can make you sick. This problem is more serious than many people realize. In fact, one in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year alone. But by following four simple steps, you can protect your families and friends and keep your food safe.
- Clean—Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Separate—Separate raw meats from other foods.
- Cook—Cook to the right temperature.
- Chill—Refrigerate food promptly.
- Learn about cross contamination, cold and hot food safety, best practices for personal hygiene, and foodborne illnesses.
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Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 °F. To keep food out of this “Danger Zone,” keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Keep food cold in the refrigerator, in coolers, or on the serving line on ice. Keep hot food in the oven, in heated chafing dishes, or in preheated steam tables, warming trays and/or slow cookers.
Never leave perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles in the “Danger Zone” over 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
USDA Brochure – Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety
This brochure helps volunteers prepare and serve food safely for large groups such as family reunions, church dinners, and community gatherings. This food may be prepared at the volunteer’s home and brought to the event, or prepared and served at the gathering.
The information provided in this publication was developed as a guide for consumers who are preparing food for large groups. For additional information, and to ensure that all state regulations or recommendations for food preparation and service are followed, please contact your local or state health department.
- English Booklet, Full Color (PDF Only, 880kb)
Additional Resources – Cooking for Groups Food Safety
- Cooking for Groups FSIS Image Library – Brochure graphics are offered here in a high resolution format (EPS) and low resolution format (JPG). Most are available in color or black and white (B/W).
- 7 Food Safety Steps for Successful Community Meals | PDF
- Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety (USDA)
Prepare and serve food safely for large groups such as family reunions, church dinners, and community gatherings.
- “No-Show” Guests Jeopardize Food (USDA)
If a meal must be delayed or cancelled, food must be handled “just right” to remain safe.
- Holiday or Party Buffets (USDA)
When foods are left out for long periods, you may have uninvited guests — bacteria that cause foodborne illness.