The ‘Guest’ You DON’T Want for Christmas Dinner


Many times we only think of food-borne illnesses as a threat in warm summer weather. That is a perfect environment for food-borne illness — but it’s not the only one. Prevent food-borne illness and food poisoning this season with these simple tips for travelling with and serving holiday foods:

  • Bacteria love any temperatures that are warm and moist.
  • Travel to winter parties tends to last longer and vehicles are heated.
  • Warm room temperatures can shorten the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Food-borne illness can take hold quickly! This can be as little as 1-2 hours for mayonnaise-based foods.
  • Avoid providing a stage for bacteria while en route to your gathering. Keep perishable foods cool by transporting them in an insulated cooler kept cold with ice or frozen gel packs. Perishable foods include meat; poultry; seafood; eggs; dairy products; pasta; rice; cooked vegetables; and fresh, peeled and/or cut fruits and vegetables.
  • Winter foods must also be packed with care to avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables. Pack the cooler immediately before leaving home with foods that have been kept chilled in the refrigerator.
  • Keep the cooler in a cool section of your vehicle, avoid placing cold foods by your feet where they will get warmed by the heater.
  • Avoid frequently opening the cooler container containing perishable food.
  • Throw away any perishable leftovers that have been kept out over two hours. “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!” There is nothing festive about food poisoning!
  • Set up your buffet table with food safety in mind. Place your cold foods away from the hot; place breads and rolls in between.
  • Provide serving spoons in each food item so they will not be exchanged between foods.
  • Supply ample clean dishes for your guests to get a new dish for each visit to the buffet table.
  • Don’t drink and drive! Celebrate responsibly and be prepared to offer a ride home to anyone in need.


Enjoying the company of family and good friends at a holiday gathering is wonderful! So pack the gifts and head to celebrate. Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!

Editor’s note: This post was first published in December 2009.

About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.