Five Food Safety Tips for Holiday Buffets


The holiday season reigns in terms of total grocery sales in the United States.* This abundance of food going home with people indicates a busy December of food preparation and entertaining.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education offers five key ways to keep unwanted germs away from your holiday buffet:

Keep a clean scene

Before cooking and after handling raw ingredients such as meat, poultry, eggs and flour, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. It sounds simple but recent USDA research found that 97% of people are failing to wash their hands properly. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. Thisshort, animated videoshows how to “Keep a Clean Scene” at home when preparing meals.

Thaw foods safely

Thaw frozen ingredients in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. For safety, never thaw food at room temperature!

Keep hot foods hot

Place hot foods in chafing dishes, crock pots or warming trays at 140 °F or warmer. Bacteria can multiple rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F. Use a food thermometer to monitor the temperature and ensure food is being held at 140 °F or higher on your buffet.

Keep cold foods cold

During your event, arrange and serve perishable foods on several small platters. Put one platter on the buffet table and store the other platters in the fridge. Swap them out every two hours. Nest platters in bowls of ice on the buffet table. 

Handle leftovers safely

Divide large portions of leftovers like beef, turkey, gravy, dressing, stews and casseroles into smaller portions in shallow containers. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours. A constant home refrigerator temp. of 40 °F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure your refrigerator temperature is at 40 °F or below. Eat leftovers within 3-4 days. 

To help you Fight BAC!® (harmful bacteria) this holiday season, we’ve created a flyer on parties and buffets and an infographic on frozen foods 

Follow the Partnership for Food Safety Education on Facebook at @FightBAC and on Twitter at @FightBAC. More food safety resources are available free at 

The Story of Your Dinner campaign is supported by Cargill, Costco Wholesale and the Frozen Food FoundationSee our video in English and Spanish at 

*November and December reign in terms of total grocery sales with $52.5 billion an $52.7 billion in sales respectively according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Shawnte Loeri is the Communications Associate with the Partnership for Food Safety Education. She can be reached at (202) 220-0705 or