Keeping Food Safe During Buffets or Picnics (2024)

Keeping Food Safe During Buffets or Picnics (1)

Minnesota Department of Health Consumer Fact Sheet
Revised August, 2011

Download a print version of this document:
Keeping Food Safe During Buffets and Picnics (PDF)

Buffets or picnics can be a great way to serve lots of different, delicious foods to large gatherings of people for special occasions, such as holidays or graduations. But they can also be a means to transmit disease among your guests if care is not taken in how the food is handled. Common causes of food-borne illnesses include norovirus, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7

Here are some tips to help you have a SAFE party.

Handle Food Safely

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Keep the kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.
  • Always serve food on clean plates.

Cook Thoroughly

  • Fresh and frozen raw meat, poultry and fish should be cooked hot enough to kill the bacteria, parasites and viruses that may be in the product. The temperatures shown below are recommended for home preparation of food. Always use a meat thermometer to check temperatures.

Keep Hot Foods HOT, Cold Foods COLD

  • Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165°F.
  • Hot foods should be held at 140°F or warmer. On the buffet table, keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays.
  • Cold foods should be held at 40°F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them with cold foods from the refrigerator when more food is needed.

Observe the Two-Hour Rule

  • Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it.

Cook Thoroughly

Follow the guide below.

Poultry or fowl, whole or parts 165°F
Ground poultry or fowl 165°F
Ground beef, veal, pork, lamb or venison 160°F
Fresh beef, veal, pork, lamb, or venison 145°F
Fish and shellfish, all kinds 145°F
Eggs Until yolk and white are firm
Egg dishes 160°F

* Regulated facilities may cook to different temperatures because staff are trained in the use of time and temperature to reach safe standards.

Last Updated: 10/20/2022

Keeping Food Safe During Buffets or Picnics (2024)
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