Keep the holidays jolly for family and friends by safely preparing and serving foods at home.

With the holidays approaching, it's a good time to review food safety basics if you're hosting a big gathering.

The risk of food-borne illness increases during the holidays, as we prepare multicourse meals, give food to friends and serve meals buffet style, says Shannon Coleman, an Iowa State University Extension food safety specialist.

It might not seem like a big deal to, say, eat the spinach dip at the appetizer table that’s possibly (or probably) been sitting out too long. 

However, food-borne pathogens can cause serious illness,...