Buffets are a lot of fun and can expose you and your family to some amazing gourmet food that you may have the chance to experience otherwise. At the same time, they can be incredibly risky for your healthy if you’re not careful and at a bit more ba-humbug than you are prepared for.
We’ve all suffered from a lousy buffet and may not have realized it. Think about your past holiday celebrations. Any times when you or a loved one came home feeling “off” or had symptoms of a stomach flu 12-48 hours later? Yup. Bad buffet. Or, put another way – food poisoning. Very, very common culprit with food buffets all year ’round but especially this time of year with so many occurring at homes overflowing with holiday cheer and people.
Luckily, your holiday festivities need not be ruined by a winter visit if Montezuma’s Revenge if you just pay attention to a few small details:
- Food Serving Temperature: Cold foods need to stay cold, hot foods hot. So, look for ice on the table for cold foods and warming trays for hot foods. Cold foods should be cold to the touch and hot foods hot…like they are out of the oven. If those features are not there, avoid the food.
- Serving Utensil Hygeine: The more people who touch the serving utensils, the more chance there is to pass on germs to you, and to the food. The most save situation is for there to be a gloved server using one utensil per food item. Many buffets, even in homes, use servers now. Second best is to have hand sanitizer at the front of the buffet line so everyone can have clean hands before touching anything on the buffet table. While this doesn’t guarantee 100% that everyone will do this it increases all our chances that most harmful germ contact will be kept to a minimum.
- If you’re sick, stay home. If anyone in line seems sick, consider not eating at the buffet. One of the biggest reasons we all get sick at these functions is someone who should have stayed home, didn’t. If we all take more responsibility in staying home when we have fever, cough, runny nose, GI symptoms, and keep our kids with those symptoms home, we will not only protect each other but keep items like food safe from germy contact. Keep in mind we never know who amoung us has a weakened immune system so it’s important we all step up and do our part to care for each other because one day we may need people to think that way for someone in our own family.
I can honestly say I’d rather do just about anything else than spend any time with “the porcelain god”. So, let caution be your guide and avoid even a nibble if you’re at all unsure of the food where you’re celebrating this holiday season.
For more information check out the CDC food safety page.