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What Everyone Ought to Know about Holiday Buffets!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 19, 2014 7:33:30 AM

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1.  Don't get sick!

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in six people get sick with a foodborne illness each year. Unfortunately, holiday buffets can be a breeding ground for foodborne pathogens!  This holiday season, focus on food safety to keep your family and friends well for the new year.  Here is everything you need to know for your celebration!


2.  Keep it clean

If you are doing the cooking, keeping your hands and kitchen surfaces clean, can eliminate a large portion of foodborne illnesses.  Always wash your hands before, during, and after handling food, with warm water and soap.  Clean countertops, appliances, cutting boards, dishes, and utensils with hot, soapy water throughout meal preparation.  Don't rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking, as that spreads bacteria to your sink and counter.  

3.  Don't be a turkey about your turkey

If your buffet includes a turkey, plan ahead!  Make sure you have enough room in your refrigerator to thaw it and allow plenty of time for it to defrost. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw in your fridge. Cook your turkey to 165° F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature, inserting it in the inner most part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.  If you need more information on how to safely cook a turkey, click here.

4.  Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot

Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40° F and 140° F.   This can be a huge concern with holiday buffets if foods are left out for a long period of time.  Cold foods should not be left out of refrigeration longer than 2 hours. Your best option is to place the dishes in bowls of ice to keep them chilled. Hot foods should not be left out for longer than an hour.  Keep hot foods hot using warming trays or slow cookers.


5.  Love your leftovers

Holiday leftovers are the best!  However, a common cause of foodborne illness is improperly cooling cooked foods. To ensure rapid cooling, use shallow containers (2 inches or less) to store leftovers in your refrigerator.  Don't overpack your refrigerator - cool air needs to  circulate around the containers.  Eat or freeze your leftovers within 3 to 4 days and be sure to reheat them to 165° F before eating.

Need more information?

Here are some great resources on holiday food safety. This infographic from has great information on preparing your holiday feast. Another great resource is  

Learn more about how GA Foods ensures safe food for our customers here.


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