Going to a Potlucks? Important Things to Know . . .
It is not uncommon to attend a potluck. Whether it be a “get to know your coworkers” event, a family get-together, or maybe even a birthday party, potlucks are quite common, and considered very conventional in American culture. But what many do not realize is that potlucks can be dangerous, and the risk of becoming ill with food poisoning is increased by tenfold.
Why is this the case for many potlucks? Well, for one, it is not wise to trust that everyone else who brought a dish followed the proper food protocol when preparing their food.
For example, most dishes need to be cooked to a certain temperature in order for it to be considered safe to eat. And once cooked, there is something called a “two-hour rule”. This means the food can be sitting out at room temperature for approximately two hours, and then the food is considered unsafe to eat. But if someone is leaving this dish outside in hot temperatures, particularly in those over 90 degrees, then the rule becomes a “one-hour rule”.
If you want to keep your food edible for longer than that, then it is important that the guests have formed a plan that involves keeping the hot food hot, and the cold food cold. This means that when you cook a dish that is meant to stay hot, it is important that after it is cooked it is kept in a place where it can remain at least 140 degrees. And if you have prepared a dish that is meant to stay cold, it is paramount that the dish remains under 40 degrees.
Another crucial thing to remember is that if someone is sick, it is best not to handle the food (even if they aren’t sick, it is still important to wash their hands!). Have someone else serve the food, and remember to bring tongs and other serving utensils so no one has to use their hands to pick up the food.
One of the most common mistakes that is made during these types of events is that people rely on just using their hands to serve themselves and end up contaminating the food with whatever bacteria is on their hands, subsequently making other party-goers ill.
Finally, another tip that should come in handy is covering the food. After everyone has finished eating (or even if they have not finished and the food is just sitting out), it is important to move the food into shallow dishes and make sure it is completely covered. Then, if they have not been already, they should be stored at the proper temperatures discussed above.
If these food safety rules have been followed, then this potluck event will be much safer than those that have come before.