Festival Time

October 06, 2015

Fall and early winter bring festivals and community events that serve food.  It is a time of the year when groups hold special activities such as agricultural fairs, back-to-school fundraisers and parent nights, church and other holiday bazaars, community dinners and organizational kick-offs! The events often include the serving or selling of food such as bake sales, buffets and pot luck suppers. As the saying goes…”Feed them and they will come!”

Everyone loves a bake sale! You get your choice of many goodies, without having to do the work. Most often, your purchase goes toward a good cause as these events are usually fund-raisers for organizations, schools and churches. If you are planning a bake sale for your group, you should know that sponsoring organizations are responsible for the safety of the food products they offer for sale. Although traditional bake sale foods rarely cause illness, the public expects that the items they purchase will be safe to eat. Any food can cause an illness or other problem (such as an injury or allergic reaction) if not prepared and labeled correctly. Affixing a list of ingredients to your donation will be helpful to those with food allergies. Event organizers should contact QVHD for a guidance document on food handling for bake sales.

What about pot-luck suppers? You get to try a variety of casseroles and combinations that you never would have created yourself. No one person is stuck with all the work and every one has a great time…except for the ones who get foodborne illness. You can help to prevent foodborne illness by preparing your food safely; transporting it safely; serving it safely and storing it safely. Remember hot foods should be kept hot and cold foods should be kept cold until serving time. At room temperature, foods should be eaten within two hours of serving. In very warm weather (90 degrees and over) foods should be eaten within one hour of serving. When the event is over, don’t try to save uneaten perishable foods. While it is hard to do, the safest thing to do is to discard leftovers. The health district does not inspect pot-luck suppers. Event organizers can contact QVHD for a brochure on food safety for buffets and pot-luck suppers.

Other buffet/pot luck tips:

Size matters! If you are not sure how quickly foods will be eaten, keep some of them in reserve in the oven (or in the refrigerator, depending on the type of food) and replenish as needed. Putting out smaller portions and replenishing when needed will help keep foods safe, assuring “good eating” for even the late-arriving attendees.

  • Keep It Fresh! Replace empty platters with freshly filled platters, rather than putting refills on used dishes. This helps to eliminate exposure to germs and dirt that may be on the hands of the guests and also helps to prevent cross-contamination of foods.
  • Chill out! You can place smaller bowls of cold foods (like shrimp, fruit, potato salad or dips) in larger bowls of ice to keep them cold. Replace ice as needed. (Keep coffee cream on ice as well.)
  • Keep it Clean! Be sure all utensils and serving dishes are clean. Be sure food servers and table workers keep their hands clean!

If your event is more than a bake sale and intends to sell or serve food when the general public is invited and not just members of the organization, (for example a strawberry festival) you will need to obtain a temporary food event license from QVHD. Failure to do so could result in the shutting down of your event.  Allow two weeks for the license to be processed. For a free packet of information on guidelines for bake sales, potluck suppers and cooking for large groups, or for information on obtaining a temporary food license, Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call QVHD, 203 248-4528.