Parties are Fun, but can be a Food Safety Risk


At a party, we shake hands; share foods, sometimes prepared at home, dip out of the same bowl and spread disease.

Summer is a great time for football parties. You may be invited to share the fun and just bring a dish to pass. What you prepare can get others sick. Here are some simple rules:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing ready to eat foods.
  • Consider using gloves during food preparation.
  • Carefully wash any fruits or vegetables you will serve.
  • Refrigerate any dips, etc. until the last minute.
  • If your travel time is more than an hour, use a cooler.

While at the event:

  • Refrigerate any items needing such until the last minute.
  • Shake hands with your right hand and eat with your left. I know on your first impression this seems way to compulsive but trust me, it is a simple way to reduce getting whatever someone else is carrying on their hands. Imagine with all the people shaking hands how many viruses and bacteria are spread at a party.
  • Alternately consider washing your hands immediately before eating and frequently during the gathering. No one will notice. Really.

After the party:

  • Don’t be tempted to save leftovers. Throw them away. If they have been sitting at room temperature for several hours the bacterial growth is exponential. By the time you get the item home, the total time at room temperature likely has far exceeded the recommended four-hour maximum.
  • Even if it is an item that doesn’t need refrigeration, the risk of contamination from multiple hands grabbing into the bowl is unacceptable. Be safe.

And of course, have fun, knowing you have done what you have done has reduced the spread of disease.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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