The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends closely refereeing food safety violations so every party-goer returns home a winner.
Illegal Use of Hands. Unclean hands are one of the biggest offenders for spreading bacteria, and finger foods are especially susceptible. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Be sure to clean surfaces often, and wash platters before refilling them with fresh food.
Offside. Prevent violations at all costs and keep uncooked and ready-to-eat foods in their own zone. The juices from raw meat may cross-contaminate other food if they contain harmful bacteria. Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for vegetables. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
Time Out. Call a "time out" and use a food thermometer to be sure foods are cooked safely. Steaks should be cooked to 145 °F, ground beef cooked to 160 °F, and all poultry cooked to 165 °F.
Holding refers to never hold hot or cold foods for more than two hours at room temperature, or between 40 °F and 140 °F. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block offensive bacteria from multiplying. When in doubt, throw it out; do not eat it.
There is no opportunity for an instant replay. To avoid these violations, make sure you understand the rules completely. A great resources available before kickoff is USDA's virtual representative, "Ask Karen."
Food safety coaches are available on the "Ask Karen Chat" and by phone at the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Recorded messages are available 24 hours a day and the Hotline is staffed with food safety experts, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time.