Keeping food safe is not difficult! Basically food safety is about common sense and a bit of food safety education. It is highly recommended that anyone who engages in food preparation, do a little homework about how to keep food safe.
Visit a couple of food safety websites. If you have questions… ASK! Do not ever be afraid to ask questions! Most of the food safety sites should have toll free hotlines.
The following list is not a complete list. However, this list includes 10 of the most common tips that I shared with my food preparation staff when I was in the catering and special event business.
1. Secure your hair. Tie it back. Cover it or at least spray it liberally with hairspray before you step into the kitchen. Make sure you don’t have any hair on your clothes, too! Use a lint brush before you go into the kitchen to start cooking. While loose hair is not necessarily a big food safety issue, it is very unappetizing in food!
2. Remove all rings and other jewelry from your hands. Wash your hands and lower arms with hot soapy water before, during and after preparing food. During food preparation you will need to wash your hands often. Just use common sense and remember to wash between tasks, if you cough, if you scratch yourself, etc.
3. Start every new session with an immaculate kitchen. Wash down your prep area and counter tops. Use a solution of 1 quart water to 3 teaspoons bleach. (Bleach in a kitchen can ruin nice clothes fast. Don’t wear your best clothes in the kitchen! There is nothing worse than finding tiny bleached dots or splotches of white on a favorite nonwhite garment. Believe me I have had this happen more times than I want to remember.)
4. Keep a supply of disposable food service gloves on hand. The choice to wear gloves is up to you. If you keep your hands spotless, you will not need to wear gloves, unless you want to do so. However, if you have any type of cuts or wounds on your hands or exposed arms – it is very important that the wounds be properly bandaged. If the wound is on your hand, you need to wear a glove on that hand. There is nothing more disgusting than finding a Band-Aid in food. Yuk.. you really don’t want to give new meaning to the term “cold cuts”!
5. If you are going to be cooking with raw meat, fish or poultry always keep the raw food on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Do you know the reason for this? The reason is that you do not want any raw juices to accidentally drip onto other food in the refrigerator.
6. The temperature of your refrigerator should always be below 40 degrees. Keep a thermometer in it and monitor it. When you use the refrigerators at your wedding reception venue… check the temperature. Make sure the refrigerators are working properly. Ask the venue staff at the reception site to check the temperature of the refrigerator for you in the days preceding your reception. Also ask the venue staff, very nicely, if they will make sure to have the refrigerator clean for you.
7. Perishable food needs to stay under refrigeration! Only take food out of the refrigerator as you need it in the different stages of preparation. As soon as you are done preparing food get it back into the refrigerator or freezer.
8. Wash, rinse, sanitize, and rinse cutting boards between steps. Use common sense!
9. Transport food in insulated coolers. Borrow or rent big coolers.
10. Leftover food should never be kept out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If in doubt, throw it out.
Again this is not an all inclusive list. Depending on the menu you choose for your reception, different precautions may need to be taken. As you decide your menu, think through the food safety logistics. For example, if you are having an outdoor reception during warm weather months you need to read up on food safety for picnics or tailgate parties. Follow those safety measures exactly! The amount of time that food can go unrefrigerated outside is only about one hour. After that hour, if the food is not chilled or iced down … dangerous bacteria can begin growing in the food. That is bad! If food that has not been properly refrigerated is consumed, it is possible that the person eating the food can become very, very sick. A person with a weakened immune system could even die.
If you are self-catering or semi-catering your wedding reception appoint someone trustworthy who will be vigilant about food safety!
If you are having your reception catered always ask the caterer to describe their food handling procedures to you.
Just because you are not a full-time licensed caterer – do not feel intimidated by the issue of food safety. Chances are the food that you prepare for your own wedding reception will be superior in taste and free of germs. You will be confident because you know your kitchen was spotless, your hands were clean, and your food did not sit out of refrigeration a minute longer than was necessary in the preparation process.
You might want to consider asking a family member, friend or hired assistant to help you with food safety issues. Contact one of the state or national food safety organizations and ask for their help, too.
They can offer you a wealth of information to help you to learn the do’s and don’ts of food safety.
Food safety is not difficult! Food safety does not take long to learn! Set aside an hour or two to educate yourself about food safety before you start preparing food for your wedding reception.
© 2006 Kathi Dameron, Kathi Dameron and Associates
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