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Don’t forget to play it safe at your holiday party pitch-in or buffet

Nov. 30, 2016

The holiday season is a time of family, festivities and, of course, food.

Holiday get-togethers often come in the form of pitch-ins or buffets, but partygoers should beware. Leaving food out for hours could allow some uninvited guests to join the party: bacteria that could cause foodborne illness.

Holiday food safety guide

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 48 million foodborne illnesses each year in the U.S., including more than 100,000 hospitalizations. Take precautions during food preparation that will help prevent health hazards.

"It's easy to overlook some of the important details that can turn the hit dish of a pitch-in into the suspected source of the building's foodborne illness outbreak," said Kevin Mouser, environmental manager with University Environmental Health and Safety at IUPUI. 



No matter what your holiday plans may be, the tips below are worth reviewing to keep the food from ruining your party.

According to Graham McKeen, public health manager with University Environmental Health and Safety-Bloomington, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 48 million foodborne illnesses each year in the U.S., including more than 100,000 hospitalizations. "It's all about proper hygiene, hand washing, and controlling time and temperature, McKeen said. 



Mouser offers the following tips:

  • Recognize when you use ingredients that are considered “potentially hazardous” — those food items that normally require refrigeration at the grocery store. If your end creation uses potentially hazardous ingredients, the finished product will likely require refrigeration before being served (for cold dishes) or constant heat (for hot dishes).
  • Be sure to cover your dish while being stored or while transporting to an event.
  • For cold dishes, cool as quickly as possible after preparing. Split large portions into smaller ones by placing in shallow pans and allow to cool in the refrigerator as rapidly as possible.
  • Maintain proper temperatures of the food once you arrive at an event. Place refrigerated items immediately in a refrigerator or keep hot items warm (above 135 degrees) by means of a slow cooker or other similar methods. 
  • Reheat your contribution thoroughly at the time of the pitch-in as quickly as possible to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees.
  • Provide serving utensils (spoons, forks, tongs, etc.) and avoid dishes that are served by hand. 
  • Recognize the four-hour rule. After four hours in what is considered the danger temperature zone (41 to 135 degrees), potentially hazardous foods should no longer be considered safe and should be discarded. 

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