In many parts of the country, Memorial Day marks the beginning of picnic season. For me, there was no better way to get out of the office than to personally handle a summer picnic. I loved cooking outside on a beautiful sunny day while being able to give my customers a great experience. While I am proud to state that in my 30+ years of foodservice experience, I never had to deal with a single case of food-borne illness, it wasn’t because I was lucky; I knew how to prevent these situations. Following are some things you can do to protect the health of your customers while at the same time ensuring that you will not have to visit your lawyer.
1) Be careful what you serve. We stayed away from any fresh poultry products. As you know, fresh chicken can carry salmonella. Even though this bacterium is killed by proper cooking, I always felt that chicken liquid could be lethal. The classic cross-contamination story unfolds as your temporary cook—even with a gloved hand—puts raw chicken on the grill and then opens a tub of potato salad and grazes the product with his thumb. Bacteria + potato salad + a warm day = a big problem for you.
2) Watch your temperatures. Even frozen poultry can be a hazard if undercooked. Make sure you know the minimum serving temperatures of all the proteins you will be presenting. From the USDA:
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature & Rest Time|
|Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb
Steaks, chops, roasts
|145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Ground meats||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked)||145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Fully Cooked Ham
|Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F (60 °C) and all others to 165 °F (73.9 °C).|
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature|
|All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings, ground poultry, and stuffing)||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Eggs||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Fish & Shellfish||145 °F (62.8 °C)|
|Leftovers||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Casseroles||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
3) Use the proper equipment. Always keep cold food cold and hot food hot. If you attended the Catersource trade show, I’m sure you saw a lot of innovative products that help keep food safe. If you didn’t, send me an email and I will point you in the right direction.
4) Be aware of the clock. As you should know, no food should be at room temperature for more than four hours. And remember, the clock starts ticking as soon as the food is set out on the buffet table and you can’t go back in time. A cheese tray that sat out in your kitchen for an hour and then was transported to your event during a warm one hour car ride only has two hours of safe serving time left. Even if you refrigerate the tray after arriving at the event, you can’t turn back the clock and the product still only has two hours of safe serving time left.
If you never took a ServSafe or similar type of course, I sincerely recommend that you do as you will never look at food the same way again. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to have a further discussion.