In the middle of winter, Americans love having a reason to get together and celebrate a very American tradition—the Super Bowl. Every year, groups gather into cozy houses, crowd around buffet tables and television sets, and watch to see what NFL team will be deemed “best.” All of this crowding and sharing, while fun, presents an easy opportunity for foodborne illness to strike.
Super Bowl parties are often potlucks, with guests traveling with food in their car, or they may be the first time a 20-something hosts a meal at his house. Also, people may not want to miss the next big play to head to restroom to wash their hands. All of these scenarios are good reason to really pay attention to the food safety playbook: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
The most important thing to do to prevent foodborne illness—especially when having a party during cold season—is to make sure all guests wash their hands! This prevents both the spread of cold-causing germs as well as the spread of bacteria that can cause stomach illness. Additionally, keep all eating and serving surfaces clean. This may mean keeping a disinfecting cloth on hand to quickly wipe up spills.
Secondly, make sure you keep any raw meat or poultry products away from foods that will be eaten raw, like vegetables for dipping, or from foods that have already been cooked. Sausages, wings, and other meat fare you might be serving guests have to be cooked to ensure pathogens are destroyed, and their raw juices can contain the same pathogens and spread them to other foods, making those foods potential stomach bug culprits too. Prepare meats and vegetables on separate cutting boards, or at least wash your cutting board and knives between each item. And keep serving bowls of raw and cooked foods far away from any meat or poultry that is waiting to go into the oven or onto the grill.
When heating foods—whether in the microwave, on a grill, or in a slow cooker—cook beef to 145 °F, pork to 160 °F, and chicken to 165 °F, and use a thermometer to be sure it’s hot enough. You can’t tell if food is done by looking at it, and you want people to remember your party for the fun they had—not because they got sick.
Once food is cooked and on the serving table, keep it above 140 °F if it’s a hot dish, and below 40 °F if it’s a cold one. Any food that remains between 40 °F – 140 °F for more than two hours—and this includes time in the car—needs to be thrown out immediately. To avoid this problem, refrigerate all leftovers as soon as guests have eaten instead of leaving them out for the whole game.
Whether you’re a Steelers or a Packers fan, or if you’re just watching for the commercials and the halftime show, score a touchdown with your guests by remembering to Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. If you still have questions, call the food safety coaches at 1-888-MPHotline or “Ask Karen” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Monday – Friday.