Food Safety at Church Potlucks

Don’t let bad food spoil a good time at your next church potluck.

Bring out the food, and the fellowship is close behind. Church dinners offer an excellent opportunity to bring the community together. Poor food preparation can spoil a good time, though, so use the following precautions before your next church potluck.

Food Preparation

Look for warning signs. Don’t purchase or use canned goods that are damaged or rusted. These signs indicate the food may not be safe regardless of how you prepare it.

Separate quarters. Keep raw seafood, poultry, and meat away from other foods. Use separate cutting boards and make sure any juices are contained.

Now you’re cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure cooked food is heated to the proper temperature. Check the temperature in several places to ensure even cooking.

During the Event

Avoid the danger zone. The danger zone for food is between 40° and 140 °. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold—and all food out of the danger zone.

Keep the evidence. If you suspect a food-borne illness, preserve as much evidence as you can. Save a sample of any suspect food in the freezer—clearly marked as “dangerous.” Retain all packaging if possible and contact the appropriate authorities for investigation.

Clean-up time. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours of preparation or within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°. Do not re-use a container that held raw foods.

Ministering with Food

Consider outreach opportunities. Look for ways to minister with food beyond the congregation potluck. Food ministries can feed the hungry or provide employment opportunities for those in need.

Examine your facilities. Think about current or future food ministries when considering church improvement projects. Factor in seating, counter space, and whether you cook or simply re-heat food in your kitchen when you plan any improvements.

Understand the regulations. How you use the kitchen may determine what kind of licensing or regulations apply. Check with local authorities as your food ministries grow and change.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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