Well, college football is just about over, and the Pros are on their way to ending another season soon.  Don’t despair!  There’s still time for tailgate parties, but there are some things you should know that will keep you a little healthier.  It’s a great time to be with friends and family, and new friends that you meet.  Cheer on, and munch on, but do it safely!  No one wants to land in the emergency room during or after the game! Don’t penalize your guests by failing to follow these rules from the U.S.D.A.:

  • Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often. Don’t commit “illegal use of hands!”
  • Separate – Don’t cross-contaminate.  Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods.
  • Cook – Use a food thermometer to ensure meat and poultry are safely cooked.
  • Chill – Refrigerate or freeze promptly.

We all understand the “two-minute” warning in football, but food safety has the “two-hour” rule.  Perishable food items that sit out for too long may not be safe to eat.  By using serving cold dishes nestled in bowls of ice, or warm items left in a heating source (slow cooker), foods will be safer.   Partially and undercooked foods are threats to food safety.  Using a food thermometer will ensure that meats are adequately cooked to the proper temperatures. 

Don’t get a false start.  Snack on some healthy items before the party to avoid overindulging.  Healthy snacks such as fruits, carrots, celery, and low-fat dips should be included in the menu.  Non-alcoholic beverages should be offered, as well.  Never chop block!  This happens when you chop raw veggies on the same cutting board that was used to cut up chicken or other raw meats.  Harmful bacteria can cross contaminate with other foods.  Clean the cutting board with hot soapy water after dicing one type of food and before starting on another.  

Below are some great instructions from the Food Safety Consortium of Iowa State University:

If in doubt, throw it out! Keep hot foods HOT (above 140° F) and cold foods COLD (40° F or below)

Which Foods are Safe to Serve?

  •          Single-serving, pre-packaged portions are the safest. Consider offering sandwiches, cookies, or other food items in individual,   food-grade plastic bags or film wrap. This will minimize the number of people who come in contact with the food.
  •          Dry foods or those high in sugar are almost always safe. Breads, rolls, cakes (without cream filling), fresh fruits and vegetables, cookies and crackers are safe. Use caution when serving cooked or processed foods such as lunch meat, hot dogs, vegetables and salads.
  •          High-protein foods like meat, milk and dishes containing egg are potentially hazardous.
  •          Be cautious with marinades, potatoes, rice, custards, puddings, pies, gravies and stuffings. Time and temperature control of these foods is extremely important.
  •          The life of most deli meats and foods is short. Roast beef, chicken breast, and turkey have a shorter refrigerator life than processed meats or cold cuts. Buy reasonable quantities. If food won’t be served soon, store in a cooler immediately.
    When you get home, properly wrap and freeze deli meats that won’t be eaten within two to four days.
  •          REMEMBER most food poisoning bacteria can NOT be seen, smelled, or tasted.
  •          Bacteria multiply fastest between temperatures of 40 and 140; it’s what we call the Danger Zone. 

Help your guests avoid penalties!  If they plan to drink alcoholic beverages at your party, be sure they have a designated driver.   An accident would put a damper on everyone who attended the party.  If you are attending a tailgate party, wear loose fitting, layered clothes, with the top layer being water repellent.  Drink warm liquids without caffeine or alcohol.  Alcohol causes the body to lose heat more quickly.  If you follow these food safety tips, you won’t have to worry about your guests going home with more than just memories of the game!