[Sca-cooks] Food Safety in the SCA

Avelyn Grene avelyn at greneboke.com
Sat Aug 23 09:05:09 PDT 2008

Stefan asked:

<<Hmmm. Okay, but what makes these particular items difficult to
transport?  Is the problem in transporting them? Transporting them at 
safe temperatures? Or is the problem in warming them up again, safely?>>

Starchy foods (beans, rice, potatoes) are just as bad as bad as raw 
chicken for carrying and breeding bacteria.  One of the biggest problems 
with transporting food (especially when you do not have the proper 
equipment, as many in the SCA don't) is that it is very easy for food to 
drop below its proper holding temperature, and food is very rarely 
brought back up to temp once on site. Ideally, if you have to transport 
hot food to site, you need to have it carried in hot boxes of some sort, 
and then put immediately into a hot holding box, so that it says above 
temp.  Or, if you can make it there - do that!

Potatoes: Botulism - Caused by temperature abused vegetables (potatoes 
being one of the biggest problems).  The bacteria, clostrium botulinum 
forms spores that are found in water and soil.  It doesn't grow well 
when refrigerated or in acidic and low moisture food.  It does thrive 
without oxygen though (baked potatoes in foil, covered mashed potatoes, 
cans, etc).  The spores produce deadly toxins when temperature abused.

Rice: Bacteria: Bacillus cereus.  It is also spore-forming and dangerous 
when time/temperature abused.  There are two separate kinds of toxins 
produced by this bacterium, one from rice, the other from cooked 
veggies, meats, and milk.  Unlike botulism, you probably won't die from 
this bacterium (though you may wish you did).

<<Is there a problem with warming such foods in a steam table? ie: Do 
you need to warm them up on a stove first because the steam table only 
develops enough heat to keep food and not warm it up from a cold 
condition? But in that case, why did the beans get hot enough to bubble 
over the side? And why were the beans smelling? Was some of them 
burning? Or had they started rotting? Or something else?>>

Lothar hit this right on the money.  Steam Tables (in other words hot 
buffet lines) are meant only to keep hot food hot.  They are not to be 
used to heat food.  Anything being reheated must reach at 165 degrees 
within two hours.  Anything over this allows any bacteria to grow in 
mass quantities.

-A note on Bacteria:  bacteria grows *best* from 40-70 degrees, and 
grows *really well* between 70-135.  The faster any food is heated or 
chilled in or out of these temperatures, the better.  This is why food 
needs to be heated to 165 within two hours, and chilled to 40 within 
four hours.  (Since the food has a longer time to pass through The 
Danger Zone (40-135 degrees) bacteria have a longer time to multiply, 
which is why it needs heated up to a hotter temp faster.)

<<I do have these files in the FEASTS section of the Florilegium.
 > warming-ovens-msg (10K)  6/ 1/08    Using warming ovens for SCA feasts. 

<<Is a steam table different from a warming oven? I thought they were 
the same. If not, perhaps I need some information on how to correctly 
use steam tables, when a site has them.>>>>

Again, steam tables = buffet lines, and only keep already hot food warm 
for a short period of time (chafers are the same thing).  The same with 
hot holding boxes, if the temp only stays in the 140-180 range, it was 
only meant to keep the food warm, not heat it up.  To actually reheat 
food you need an oven or stove that can get hot enough to heat the food 
within 2 hours (using less time than that is better) and usually need to 
be at least 300 degrees.  (If your "warming oven" heats up higher than 
300, the it should be okay to reheat food, if it doesn't it is only okay 
to keep it hot - I dont want to give a definite on what a "warming oven" 
can do, as some people have different ideas about wha the items actually 

<< fd-transport-msg  (18K)  3/16/08    Transporting cooked and prepared 

My thoughts on transporting food:  If you HAVE to do it (it's better not 
to) then make sure your food is in a sanitary, insulated environment, 
where it will not lose much heat.  Transport the food quickly; get it in 
an appropriate hot/cold holding unit, if possible.  If no professional 
equipment is available to you, then keep it in coolers (many of the 
ideas in the mentioned files were good ideas for adding additional heat) 
and please make sure you taken temperatures every 1-2 hours and dont 
hold it for more than 4 hours.  *If you are transporting ready to eat 
food for feast, do it as close to service time as possible - SCA feasts 
usually start late (in my experience) so you will probably have to hold 
it longer than you would like.  (You may also want to look into 
renting/borrowing pro equipment if doing a large feast this way).

Moral of the story - temp your food and keep it at the right temps for 
the right amount of time!

Sorry for the book and micro lesson



Lady Avelyn Grene
Apprentice to Master Edouard Halidai
Chronicler and Historian for Barony Flaming Gryphon

The Commonplace Boke of Lady Avelyn Grene



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