Safe Foods for Potlucks
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Safe Foods for Potlucks

Why do people need to be sure to cook safe food for potlucks?

  • Food served at pot lucks can and does cause illness. In August 2006, a woman in Longville, Minnesota died from kidney failure, a complication from an E. coli infection she contracted at a potluck. Fortunately, this is a rare event.
  • While most food is safe, any food can become contaminated. When preparing foods in larger quantities, there’s an increased risk of the foods becoming contaminated or held at temperatures that allow rapid growth of bacteria.
  • The foods that are most likely to cause illness if they’re contaminated are those we call higher risk foods. Examples of these would be ready-to-eat foods and moist, high-protein foods such as milk and milk products, poultry, fish, pork, shellfish, cooked rice, potatoes and soy protein foods.

When might NH’s Public Health Protection staff regulate a community event, such as a potluck?

  • NH’s Public Health Protection staff regulate community events that are advertised or open to the general public. If a group has a luncheon, tea or “potluck” for its members and their guests only, it’s considered a private/closed event… so Public Health does not get involved.
  • But if the group advertised a food event for the general public to attend, NH staff would like to work with them to make their event as safe as possible.

If we have a big food event planned for the community, what are the steps we should take to organize it and get our permit?

  • Call your local Environmental Health Officer, and they’ll help you with the process.
  • Get a short-term permit application and Guidelines for Temporary Food Service Premises, which will help you plan your cooking procedures. A short-term permit is free.
  • Talk about the menu and submit a food safety plan, which is a written set of procedures to ensure that a health hazard does not occur.
  • Make sure the cooking facility you’re using has adequate equipment for the type of Food service you have planned, and that it is  a permitted facility.

You must have at least one person with “FOODSAFE” training present and in charge of the event at all times. For more information: