Keeping us all Healthy

Not too long ago, someone became ill after participating in a Master Gardener potluck. It isn't possible to say for sure that the illness derived from the potluck, but this started wide-ranging discussions with OSU Extension Master Food Preservers, OSU Risk, the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon State Small Farms on best practices for MG potlucks and bake sales. This resulted in a series of "guidelines" to avoid problems in the future:

1. Public potlucks are not permissible. Master Gardener potlucks are permissible if the food is shared in good faith, by members of the Master Gardener group.

2.Even in a closed, Master Gardener group, volunteers should adhere to best practices for food handling and food safety. Please consult OSU Resources on Food Safety, for more information.

3. For bake sales, which are public events, Lauren Gwin’s recent publication on Oregon’s Home Baking Bill is an excellent resource. Home-baked goods should be labelled as such, so that people can make informed decisions about their purchase.  Bake sales should exclude home-baked goods that are potentially hazardous, from a food safety point of view.  Potentially hazardous foods include foods that require refrigeration or hot holding. Examples requiring refrigeration are cream cheese cakes, cream cheese pies. Baked goods cannot have milk or dairy in a filling, glazing, or frosting, because they also would require refrigeration (for example cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting).

Our Chapter's Potlucks

The Multnomah Chapter has two major potlucks each year, and snacks at almost every meeting. The April potluck hosting all trainees isn't exactly public - we don't publicize that meeting as we do others, but we do encourage trainees to bring their families. Our Harvest Fest in late summer is similar. The chapter will have to decide whether or not these events are "public". If they are, it will mean the end of significant traditions. Hopefully we can find a way to hold them within the guidelines. Our regular meeting are definitely open to the public, and the board of directors has suggested having one person purchase snacks for each meeting rather than continue to solicit contributions from members.

Follow these kitchen and potluck safety tips:

√ Wash your hands frequently before and during food preparation. It’s especially critical to
scrub them with soap and water right after using the bathroom and after handling raw meat and
√ Reserve the kitchen sink for food preparation. Babies’ diapers, soiled gardening tools, dirty
shoes, dirty eggs, rinsing mops, etc., should be cleaned in other sinks. Save the kitchen sink
for food.
√ Launder dish cloths and dish towels often. The heat of the clothes drier kills bacteria.
You can sanitize sponges in the microwave. Wet them thoroughly and place in an uncovered
bowl. Heat on high until they steam. OR run them through the dishwasher with your dishes.
√ Don’t wash poultry. That will just spread bacteria around the kitchen without substantially
reducing their numbers on the bird. Bacteria on the bird will be killed with proper cooking.
√ Use paper towels to clean off counters and cutting boards used for raw meat, fish and poultry.
Then wash cutting boards thoroughly with soap and water. Sanitize with diluted chlorine
bleach (1 teaspoon per quart of water).
√ Whether you use plastic or wooden cutting boards, keep them clean. A plastic board can be
put into the dishwasher.
√ How far is it between my home and the eating site?
√ Do I have a way to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until time to eat?
√ Is there adequate refrigeration and oven space to keep foods at the right temperature at the
eating site?
√ Can I use electrical appliances to keep food hot during serving?
√ If I pick up food from the deli or restaurant do I have something with me to keep it hot or cold
until I reach the site?
√ Are there wash-up facilities available at the eating site?

Perishable foods should not be held at room temperature longer than 2-3 hours (including
serving). Have someone (or a few people) in charge of receiving foods coming to the potluck to
make sure they stay cold or hot until time to serve. Do not put perishable foods on the serving table
too soon unless they are on ice for cold foods or plugged into a warming source for hot foods.

If possible it is always nice to have a label with dishes letting people know what is in them so
people with food allergies and special dietary needs are aware of foods they should avoid.
Examples, nuts, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Keep foods covered until you are ready to serve the food. Have enough serving utensils available
for every dish so people don’t use their fingers or personal utensils to dish up the food.

As soon as the meal is over, the group should take a break and have everyone stop and put
perishable foods away before the meeting or program starts. Dessert items such as cookies, cakes
and fruit pies are ok to leave out. Also chips, cracker and snack foods.