Food-safety guidelines part of summer plans


Here's a summer morsel about food safety. Don't let your picnic basket or outdoor buffet table carry more than a delicious meal.

Summer picnics, family reunions, community meals, and food festivals mean that a host of well-intentioned volunteers will prepare food for large groups.

The food may be made at the volunteer's home and brought to the event, or it may be prepared and served at the gathering, in a community hall or a rustic picnic shelter.

Improperly cooked and handled foods can cause food-borne illness, which results in 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many outbreaks have been traced to food prepared and handled by volunteers for large groups.

To help consumers through the steps necessary to safely plan and serve food for a large event, a 40-page guide, Cooking for Groups - a Volunteer's Guide to Food Safety, details planning and shopping; storing and preparing food; cooking foods to safe internal temperatures; safely transporting food; re-heating food; keeping foods hot or cold during serving, and safely storing leftovers.

Key food safety topics for groups incorporate four basic principles:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.

  • Separate: Don't cross-contaminate by using the same cutting boards, dishes, and utensils.

  • Cook: Cook to proper temperatures.

  • Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

    The booklet is available by writing to Federal Consumer Information Center, Item No. 604 H, Pueblo, CO, 81009, or from their Web site at The guide can also be printed from the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site: cfg.htm

    For specific answers about cooking for a community meal or office party and how to keep foods safe, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 800-535-4555.

    Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. E-mail her at