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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

May 21, 2019 - 8:50am --

The fields are being planted, the grass is growing fast and the proms and graduations are in full swing.  Whatever milestones you enjoy with the change in seasons, I hope that you can be mindful in the observation of them.  The little things in life enrich the moments and allow us to savor the memories for the future. 

Speaking of memories, I’m guessing many of you are preparing for upcoming gatherings.  Graduations, family or school reunions and community picnics are all times to gather and share lots of great food and great stories.  What kind of things do we need to keep in mind to keep our food safe?  Following are some tips from USDA to keep our gatherings enjoyable for everyone.

1. Plan Ahead — Make sure the location meets your needs.

  • Be sure you have enough oven, stovetop, refrigerator, freezer, and work space.  Review the size of the cooking equipment and see how many will fit in the oven at a time.  
  • Find out if there is a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning, and extra for hand washing.

2. Store & Prepare Food Safely

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours of shopping or preparing; 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F.
  • Find separate preparation areas in the work space for raw and cooked food.
  • Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that held raw food.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work surfaces frequently with hot, soapy water.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.

3. Cook Food to Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures — It's the only way to tell if harmful bacteria are destroyed!

  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, casseroles, and other food. Check temperature in several places to be sure food is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature.
  • Never partially cook food for finishing later because you increase the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Use crock pots, roasters and chafing dishes to ensure food stays hot.  Replace containers and serving utensils, don’t just refill them.  Be careful with extension cords for both outlet overload and foot traffic safety.

4. Transport Food Safely — Keep hot food HOT. Keep cold food COLD.

  • Keep hot food at or above 140 °F. Wrap well and place in an insulated container.
  • Keep cold food at or below 40 °F. Place in a cooler with a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Make sure that food stays cold by placing in ice.  Have fun with the theme like a canoe or a pool, but replace containers and serving utensils, not just refill them.

5. Need to Reheat? Food must be hot and steamy for serving. Just "warmed up" is not good enough.

  • Use the stove, oven, or microwave to reheat food to 165 °F. Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a boil.

6. Keep Food Out of the "Danger Zone" (40-140 °F).

  • Keep hot food hot – at or above 140 °F. Place cooked food in chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays, and/or slow cookers.
  • Keep cold food cold — at or below 40 °F. Place food in containers on ice.

7. When In Doubt, Throw it Out!

  • Discard food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours; 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F.
  • Place leftovers in shallow containers. Refrigerate or freeze immediately.

Be Food Safe! Prepare with Care

  • CLEAN. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often.
  • SEPARATE. Don't cross-contaminate.
  • COOK. Use a food thermometer.
  • CHILL. Chill food promptly.

Keeping your food safe is important for everyone, but especially young children and older adults.  For more information, check out  or, "Ask Karen" at or call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); TTY: 1-800-256-7072

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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