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Guidelines for Preparing & Serving Home-Prepared Food for Group Gatherings

When preparing food at home, you can take actions to help keep yourself, your family, and your guests safe from foodborne illness ("food poisoning").

 Keep it Hot

  • When at all possible prepare and cook the food the day of the event. 
  • Cook potentially hazardous foods to a safe internal temperature; use a metal probe thermometer to check the final cooking temperature.
  • Hot hold potentially hazardous food at or above 135 degrees F.
  • Don’t serve any heat-treated or ready-to-eat potentially hazardous food that has been kept in the danger zone (41-135 degrees F) for ≥4 hours.

Keep it Cold

  • Cold hold potentially hazardous food (PHF) at or below 41 degrees F.
  • If PHF is to be cooked a day or more in advance of an event, then cool from: 135 to 70 degrees within 2 hours; and from 70 to 41 degrees within 4 hours (use a metal probe thermometer to verify cooling temps). Visit for more information.

Keep it Clean

  • Wash hands with soap often (prior, during, and after food prep).
  • Use utensils with handles, paper napkins, wax paper or disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • Assure all food-contact surfaces and equipment are clean (wash, rinse, and sanitize with bleach & water, using ½ teaspoon bleach per gallon of water)

Keep it Healthy

  • Assure household members are symptom free of stomach illness (no vomiting or diarrhea for a minimum of 72 hours prior to the event).

More Information

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