COVID-safe food sharing: The do’s and don’ts of entertaining

Whether you’re entertaining at home or ‘taking a plate’ here’s how to make sure the food you dish up is COVID-smart.

It’s the way of the times that COVID-friendly considerations have become a factor in how we approach social interaction.

Just as a friendly elbow-bump is accepted as a COVID-appropriate means of greeting, and remaining “socially distanced” is common parlance, thought must be given to the food we share when we get together and how we serve it.

The COVID risks around food

It’s important to understand where the potential for spread comes from around food, and thankfully it isn’t the food itself, says Food Safety Information Council communication director Lydia Buchtmann.

“The good news is that Food Standards Australia New Zealand says COVID-19 isn’t likely to be spread by food but it ­can be spread on surfaces like plates and utensils and, of course, people’s hands,” she says.

How to make your party COVID-safe

Sharing food and drinks, as well as crockery, glasses, and cutlery is not good COVID-safe practice, nor is offering up a communal bowl of chips, nuts or dips where many hands may be repeatedly reaching in.

Instead, Lydia recommends options that can be easily portioned.

“You may want to serve up individual plates of food rather than let people serve themselves,” she says.

“If you do have shared plates, such as a salad bowl, give everyone their own serving spoons or forks separate from the cutlery they will be eating with and putting in their mouths.

“Don’t let your guests pick up food from a communal plate with their fingers, for example bread rolls can be put on individual side plates to save people reaching for them.”

Lydia also suggests setting up seating to help people keep their distance and, if the weather permits, take your party outside where there is more space and better air circulation.

How do you host COVID-safe birthday parties?

We all enjoy celebrating a birthday, and while the pandemic hasn’t put a stop to this completely, it has changed some of our favourite rituals.

“Blowing out candles, or even singing Happy Birthday, can spread viral droplets,” says Lydia.

She recommends swapping birthday cake for cupcakes with a candle for each child to blow out.

How can you share food with a COVID-smart tick?

“You might want to consider a barbecue where the cook can serve up the meat on to your guests’ plates and someone else can dish up whichever salad they want,” says Lydia.

“If you are eating inside perhaps serve up the main dish on individual plates.”

Check out these delicious COVID-friendly serving options:

If you’re thinking of savoury dishes, Luke Hines’ Barbecue Salmon Skewers will impress your guests and are easily served straight from the grill onto their plate.

For something lighter, this Poached Chicken Salad with Green Tahini Dressing is super-healthy, and can be easily offered in individual portions.

These Steamed Prawn Gyozas will look delightful presented in disposable food boats you can buy from your local party supplies store.

For something sweet, try Luke Hines’ Chocolate Crackles that can be served in disposable paper cases.

This Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse not only tastes great, it will look stunning presented in individual glasses ready for your guests.

COVID-safe best practice for gatherings

While it’s lovely to connect with other people, Lydia says there are a few things you should remember before having people to your house, including:

  • Making sure you have plenty of handwashing facilities and hand sanitiser available to maintain good hand hygiene, as well as ensuring there are ample paper towels available for drying hands.
  • Before arranging your social gatherings check any advice from health authorities about local COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people allowed.
  • If you or anyone in your household is unwell or have cold or flu symptoms, cancel the event, stay home and get tested.
  • Don’t forget to contact your guests just before the event to check they are feeling well and ask them not to attend if they are unwell.
  • It’s also good sense to make a list of anyone who did attend and their contact details.

Written by Claire Burke.