Mardi Gras – Food Safety Tips

Making party plans for Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.

Many different countries celebrate Mardi Gras. The highlight of the event is certainly the food – and not the beads.  Don’t let this day – filled with a variety of mouth-watering dishes – end in food illness. Follow food safety practices to help keep your feast both food safe and delicious!

Food Safety Tips

Food illness has lots of causes, primarily leaving food out too long. But, food illness generally occurs when people eat food  that contains bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins. Most cases are caused by common bacteria such as staphylococcus or E. coli. Follow simple tips to avoid food illness:

Keep it Clean

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water (warm or cold) for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating, and handling food. Also wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Rinse produce under running water, including those with inedible skins and rinds. For firm-skin fruits and vegetables, rub by hand or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing.
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Avoid Cross-Contamination

  • Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
  • Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating directly from the bowls with dips and salsa.
  • If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling…and discourages pre-party nibblers.
  • Getting takeout or delivery? Make sure to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold.

Food Safety “Danger Zone” (40 °F – 140 °F)

Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.”

The Correct Temperature

  • Hot Foods. Hold hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
  • Cold Foods. Maintain cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice, replacing ice often.
  • Food Thermometer. Use a food thermometer to test Super Bowl party favorites, like chicken wings and ground beef sliders, and any other meat or microwaved dishes on your menu.
    • Make sure chicken wings (and any other poultry) reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F and that any ground beef sliders or burgers reach 160°F.
    • Microwave leftovers to 165°F to get rid of harmful bacteria.

Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Refer to the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart below for the “rest time” of meats—the period after cooking that some meats need to rest before serving to ensure that germs are killed.

Category Food Temperature (°F)  Rest Time 
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
Turkey, Chicken 165 None
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb Steaks, roasts, chops 145 3 minutes
Poultry Chicken & Turkey, whole 165 None
Poultry breasts, roasts 165 None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings 165 None
Duck & Goose 165 None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
Pork and Ham Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat) 140 None
Eggs & Egg Dishes Eggs Cook until yolks and
white are firm
None
Egg dishes 160 None
Leftovers & Casseroles Leftovers 165 None
Casseroles 165 None
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque. None
Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells open during cooking. None
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm. None

Watch the Time

Track the time that food stays on the party table or buffet. Sideline any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for 2 hours or more.

  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate.
  • Leftover foods should be refrigerated at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for three to four days at most. Freeze them if you won’t be eating the leftovers sooner.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165°F (74°C) before serving.

 

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