Preparing party food safely

To make sure that an upset tummy doesn’t spoil festivities, you need to ensure good food hygiene in the kitchen. Prepare and store food correctly, and maintain a clean environment to ensure your family and friends keeping smiling after the party.

Preparing party food safely
Preparing party food safely

Quick tips for good food hygiene

If you’re preparing to host a party, your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer may well be stocked with more food than usual. To make sure that an upset stomach doesn’t spoil your festivities, you need to ensure good food hygiene and practices in the kitchen.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any food and immediately after handling any raw food, such as meat, poultry, fish or eggs
  • Avoid preparing food for others if you are unwell
  • Regularly clean and disinfect the surfaces used for food preparation and those surfaces that you often touch with your hands
  • Always separate raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, and storing them, to avoid cross-contamination
  • Don’t overload your refrigerator
  • Cook and reheat food thoroughly and evenly
  • Chill or freeze food promptly and use up any leftovers within 24 hours
  • Thaw, cook and store poultry correctly
  • Ensure all foods are fresh and within their use-by date
  • Use water that is clean and safe in food preparation

Why is good hygiene important?

Following proper food hygiene practices is important for the health of your family. Because you cannot see germs, correct food storage and preparation is necessary to keep food safe and to help protect your family from germs.

What you Should Know

Upset tummies are caused by consuming germs in contaminated food or water. Germs that cause this can easily spread from foods, such as raw meat and poultry, to hands or kitchen work surfaces, and in turn can spread to other foods.

Depending on the type of germ involved, the symptoms may begin from one to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, and may range from a mild stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhoea to more.

How good hygiene can help

Hands

It is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any food and immediately after handling any raw food, such as meat, poultry, fish or eggs, as germs picked up on the hands after handling raw food can easily be transferred to other foods and surfaces. Don’t use tea towels to dry your hands and keep any cuts or sores on your hands covered while preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you are unwell and don’t sneeze or cough near food.

Kitchen surfaces

To help stop germs spreading, it is important to regularly clean and disinfect the surfaces used for food preparation and those surfaces that you often touch with your hands, such as the fridge door handle, cupboard handles, taps, waste bins and door handles. Clean and disinfect food contact surfaces before putting any food on them and immediately after contact with any raw food like poultry, meat, fish and eggs. After touching raw food you should also clean and disinfect any surfaces that you may have contaminated, such as fridge door handle and taps with germs picked up on your hands.

You can decontaminate small items such as crockery, cutlery and pans by washing them thoroughly in hot water and detergent, then rinsing them with clean, safe, running water, before drying them thoroughly. Large or fixed items that you cannot rinse under a tap, such as work surfaces, taps and handles, need to be cleaned and then disinfected using a kitchen disinfecting product.

Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination happens when germs spread from one food to another, directly or via surfaces or hands. Always separate raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, and storing them. In the refrigerator, keep washed salad items in the salad compartment, cooked and ready-to-eat food at the top, and raw meat covered at the bottom. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before using them. Avoid contact between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods by using separate chopping boards and knives. Try designating one board for fresh fruit and vegetables, and one for raw meats, poultry and seafood. After use, clean and disinfect chopping boards, or put them through a dishwasher on a hot wash (at least 60ºC). Also wash knives, dishes and utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water after use.

Preparing Food Safely

Cook food thoroughly

You need to heat food thoroughly and evenly, so that it is cooked all the way through, to kill any germs in it. Reheat food properly so that it is steaming hot all the way through, but only once. This will kill any germs that have multiplied in it since it was cooked.

Chill food promptly

Refrigerate perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours or sooner. Put any frozen food you buy in the freezer straight away and keep it at or below minus 18ºC. Set the fridge at 5ºC or below and check the temperature regularly, particularly when your fridge is fuller than usual and the cooling air may be restricted from circulating properly. Put new supplies at the back of the fridge or freezer and bring older items to the front, to remind you to use them first. Check use-by dates and throw away food if the date has passed. Try not to overload your fridge – it's essential that you keep poultry leftovers, other cooked meats, trifles etc. refrigerated. Store drinks elsewhere if necessary.

If cooked food is not going to be eaten immediately, cool it and put it in the refrigerator within two hours. And, any leftovers should be consumed within 48 hours.

You should also thoroughly defrost food in the fridge before cooking, unless the instructions say cook from frozen. Once the food has defrosted, keep it in the fridge and use it within 24 hours. Only defrost food in the microwave if it is going to be eaten straight away and never refreeze previously frozen food.

Poultry

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw poultry. Follow the instructions on the wrapper for an idea of cooking times, and thaw thoroughly in a cool room or the refrigerator. Remove giblets before cooking and preferably do not stuff the bird. Cook stuffing separately, otherwise stuff neck area only. Ensure that blood and water from having defrosted the bird does not drip or contaminate other food, work surfaces or cutting boards. Separate raw and cooked foods and clean all surfaces/equipment well.

To test whether poultry is cooked, push a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. The juices should run clear with no sign of red or pink. If you’re preparing a large bird, take extra special care with your cooking times.

Other foods

Fish: When choosing fish, check that it looks fresh with clear with bright eyes and a firm texture<>

Fruit: Check that fruit (including dried) and nuts are fresh with no blemishes, mould or insect holes, and store in a cool, dry place

Dairy: Ensure dairy products (including milk, cream, yoghurt, soft cheese and eggs) are kept refrigerated when not in use

Meat: Keep fresh meat and defrosting foods at the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent dripping onto other foods

Water

When drinking water or using it to prepare food, if you do not have access to a piped supply of safe water, you will need to treat your water before you use it. Filter it if necessary and then ensure it is properly purified. Chlorination is usually the disinfection method of choice because it is efficient and easy. Water purification tablets are not only effective, but economical and easy to use too.

Minimise the amount of time that water is stored before you use it and have covered water containers that are fitted with a tap or pouring spout so that you do not need to dip your hands or other vessels into the water. Empty and clean water containers regularly.

Always read the label and use only as directed.