Tailgate Tips To Keep Your Food Safe

The jerseys are on. The gang’s all here. Kickoff is any minute now. But don’t forget food safety this football season.

After all, even those who specialize in food safety are not immune to foodborne illnesses.

Cheryl Luptowski recalls picking at a tray of cold cuts one winter night at a friend’s house. But by the time she returned home, she was wracked with severe stomach cramps and nausea.

“I think it was the meat on the tray. It had been sitting out for too long and not at a proper temperature,” says Cheryl, who also happens to be a consumer safety expert with the National Sanitation Foundation, a nonprofit consumer safety organization based in Michigan.

“It happens to a lot of us. We say, ‘Oh, it’s only been sitting there for an hour or two, so it should be OK,'” says Cheryl. “But now I’m so careful about the temperature of the foods I eat. If I go to a party and I don’t see cold cuts served on top of ice, I don’t touch them.”

Many of us will open our homes to family and friends throughout football season, and especially on Super Bowl Sunday. But during the hustle to feed a crowd with tasty dishes, we sometimes forget the most important part of being a good host: food safety.

Cheryl offers these quick tips to make your pigskin party a success—and your food safe.

  1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Put cold food on ice and use Bunsen burners to keep warm dishes and soups hot.
  2. Stay out of the “danger zone”—those temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Cheryl says, “Foods need to be kept above 140 degrees or under 40 degrees to keep bacteria from growing.” Any temperature in between, such as room temperature, will provide the ideal home for bacteria to grow. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours at room temperature, and keep your fridge set to 40 degrees or lower.
  3. To avoid bacterial growth, serve small amounts of buffet food. Replace any food that has been sitting out longer than two hours.
  4. Don’t serve dishes that contain raw or undercooked eggs, no matter how delicious. Raw eggs can be especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly or those with chronic disease.
  5. Many of us have large quantities of leftovers after cooking for a crowd. “When you have a big bowl of something, separate it into smaller containers,” says Cheryl. “Food won’t cool down entirely if it’s in a big bowl and bacteria can grow.”
  6. Eat refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. After that, leftover food should be stored in the freezer.


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Date Last Reviewed: September 11, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Mike McCombe; Chef, Certified Food Safety Educator

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