TOLEDO (WTVG) - If you're bringing food to a holiday gathering, there are two key temperatures you need to keep in mind: 40°F and 140°F.
Those are the benchmarks for cold holding and hot holding, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Although the state regulates licensed food facilities, the same principles apply to foods made and stored at home.
Shannon Lands with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department explains it's all an effort to keep you and your holiday guests from getting sick.
"You need to make sure that your cold food is kept cold, 40°F or below, and your hot food is kept at 140°F or hotter," says Lands, who also says ready-to-eat foods such as chips and nuts can be held at room temperature without concern.
However, Lands continues, hot foods need to maintain a temperature of 140°F or higher. She recommends you transport your pre-heated containers in thermal bags, possibly with foil on top or wrapped in towels, and tightly sealed. Cold foods at 40°F or lower can also be transported in a thermal bag, which should properly maintain a safe temperature for 4 hours.
"It will keep them at the 40° or below with just an ice pack or ice on top for four hours," says Lands. "After that, put it in the refrigerator or, if it's cold enough, outside."
As for reheating leftovers, the key temperature is 165°F. Even if they have already been cooked once, when you take leftover foods out of the refrigerator to heat them again, the 165°F mark is the "kill point" for any potentially harmful bacteria.