The Ultimate Food Safety Checklist for a Taco Bar

Tacos filled with delicious toppings

No matter what the occasion is, taco bars are always a crowd pleaser. And let’s face it, they’re usually less expensive and easier to make than a lot of other options. They even contain many healthy ingredients. Whether it’s for a party, for your family dinner, or even just to satisfy a personal craving, you can’t go wrong with tacos. 

Although there are many pros to setting up a taco bar, it does present some unique food safety risks you should consider. These hazards are easily preventable, and shouldn’t have to spoil your taco party. Read on to learn how you can practice food safety while enjoying such a fun and tasty meal!

Cross contamination: let’s taco ‘bout it

Cross contamination can occur when potential hazards mix with things that you will eat. These hazards can come in many forms, such as raw meat juices, unwashed produce, or even food allergens. 

Use separate cutting boards for different kinds of raw meat and ready-to-eat foods, or thoroughly wash the cutting board with hot water and soap between use. Keep these types of food separate throughout the preparation process. Rinse produce before placing it on cutting boards or food preparation surfaces. Never wash raw meat, as it can splash juices onto nearby food preparation surfaces. 

Sometimes you may be serving ingredients both for individuals with and without food allergies. In this case, keep allergenic ingredients in separate, specially marked dishes and make sure they aren’t near non-allergenic ingredients through preparation or the meal.

Keep it clean for the Mexican cuisine

A vital part of food safety is keeping things clean and sanitary. Make sure to wash food preparation surfaces before preparing taco ingredients. Keep your serving dishes clean, as well as any utensils needed. 

In preparation, you will likely be touching food that many others will be handling and eating. Follow the proper steps of handwashing frequently, especially after using the bathroom, handling your phone, or switching between ingredient preparation.

Tongs for the toppings

Provide separate tongs and other serving utensils for each ingredient in the taco bar. If you’re serving a lot of people, this will help to prevent those with germs on their hands from directly touching the food, making themselves and others sick. Avoid letting the handles touch the food.

It’s also a good idea to ask everyone to wash their hands before eating. If you’re having a party, consider providing hand sanitizer or wet wipes with the food.

TCS tacos

TCS stands for time/temperature control for safety. When it comes to taco toppings, certain foods need to be kept in a certain temperature range, otherwise harmful bacteria can begin to grow. 

Cooked ingredients, such as meat, beans, and rice, should be kept above 135°F. Cold ingredients, like lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream should be kept below 41°F. While you can leave toppings out without temperature control for a maximum of two hours, wait until as close to meal time as possible to put them out. Consider hot holding cooked ingredients. 

Once the meal is finished, quickly put all perishable foods in the refrigerator. If people want leftovers later, they should make themselves a new plate from the refrigerator.

Following these tips, you and your loved ones can enthrall yourselves in quality taco time without worrying about getting sick. Be sure to check out our other food safety resources as well as our Food Handler training course for more ideas!

— Calvin Clark

Updated: June 15, 2020 — 4:48 pm
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