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Safety a concern at grown-up Halloween parties

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Open the door to any Halloween party, and the basics -- costumes and candy -- still swirl around the room. But it's not just kids enjoying the festivities. Increasingly, adults are adding to the dangers.

“More and more adults are having Halloween parties,” said Don Bower, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension human development specialist. “More and more adults are hosting or going to these parties. It’s becoming more common.”

Parties involving adults have the usual concerns of drinking and driving. Add trick-or-treating children to the mix, and the danger is even greater. "Having kids out walking the streets and adults driving who may not be completely sober is a dangerous mix," Bower said.

With the holiday falling on Monday this year, most adults will plan their parties for the weekend. This will help alleviate the problem, he said.

As in any situation, though, people who drink should find a designated driver. And those who drive should watch out for the extra children wandering up and down the roads.

Safety on Halloween, however, isn't just about the adult- children mix on the roads. For parties involving adults or children, health concerns often roll back to the kitchen.

"To serve your food safely at your party, keep hot foods hot using warming trays, crock pots or Sterno cans," said Judy Harrison, a UGA Extension food specialist. "Keep your hot food at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or below."

Harrison suggests ways to hosts safely prepare party foods.

To clean, "wash your hands before you prepare the food," she said. "And make sure surfaces are clean when you prepare food for the party so there is less risk of contamination."

If you have raw meat in the kitchen, "make sure you're keeping it separate from other food that's ready to eat," she said. "Use separate cutting boards for meats and ready-to-eat foods like cheese, fruits and vegetables. Or wash your used cutting board thoroughly in hot, soapy water and then sanitize it in one teaspoon of bleach in a quart of warm water or by using the sanitizing cycle of your dishwasher."

When cooking, "use a food thermometer to make sure foods you prepare are thoroughly cooked," she said. "Meats like beef and pork need to reach 160 degrees and poultry 180. For ground poultry, the temperature should reach 165."

To chill, "make sure you keep cold foods cold," she said. "Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is keeping food at 40 degrees or colder."

She suggests dividing foods into several small serving dishes you can store at the proper temperature until needed. "This way," she said, "you can replace the dishes on your serving table often, to reduce the chances for contamination and the time for bacteria to grow."

Be especially mindful of temperature when serving foods such as tuna and egg salad and other salads or hors d'oeuvres that contain meat.

"Don't leave perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours," she said.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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