Transporting food safely to holiday gatherings

Published 6:45 pm Friday, December 13, 2019


Community columnist

 ‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings! Family, friends and food are always a good combination. Just be sure that you are not sharing an upset stomach with your loved ones. Yep, you guessed it! My holiday gift for you is food safety related. Here are some tips on how to prevent foodborne illness during the holidays.

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Let traveling time decide who brings what dish to your holiday potlucks. Perishable foods should stay at room temperature no longer than two hours. This is the time it takes to travel to your destination PLUS the time it is out on the serving table. Make sure that hot dishes are assigned to those who live nearby. Cold dishes can be kept safe for several hours if they are packed well in an insulated container with ice packs. For guests that live farther away, non-perishable foods like breads, fruit pies, sealed containers of drinks or paper plates and napkins might be wise. Even better, volunteer to help with the dishes if you live too far away to transport food safely. 

For Thanksgiving this year I was in charge of desserts because I had the farthest to travel and am the best at making desserts. Yea, I said it. I know my strengths. Thanks Mom for teaching me how to bake. Anyway, it worked out well because I could make them a day in advance and didn’t have to worry about keeping them hot or cold.

If you arrive early with a hot dish for the potluck, make sure you keep it hot and not just warm. Hot foods can be held in the oven for an hour or so without drying out. Cover them with a lid or aluminum foil. Use an oven thermometer placed in the thickest part of a dish. Set your oven at the temperature that is needed to keep the food at 140 degrees F or more. Once the food is removed from the oven, follow the two-hour rule. Remember to subtract the time the dish spent traveling.

Make it a family activity to put away all perishable left-overs right after a meal. Ask your guests to bring their own insulated cooler and shallow containers for leftovers, or purchase some holiday themed disposable containers to share. Pack up leftovers right after the meal is over. Once they are packaged and covered with ice or ice packs, you can keep on enjoying time with family and friends without worrying about an unexpected visit from foodborne illness.

Try this recipe for Plate it up! Kentucky Proud Pumpkin Apple Muffins that add fall flavor to a potluck meal. Plus, they are safe at room temperature.


Pumpkin Apple Muffins


1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups whole-wheat flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1¼ cups honey
2 large eggs
1½ cups fresh pureed pumpkin
½ cup canola oil
2 cups Granny Smith apples, finely chopped

Yield: 18 muffins



Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt and spices. In a small bowl, combine honey, eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups, two-thirds full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Note: Can substitute two cups granulated sugar for honey, decrease baking soda by ¼ teaspoon and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Nutritional Analysis: 200 calories, 7 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 3 g protein