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Super Bowl 50: Food Safety Tips for a Foodborne Illness-Free Party

February 2, 2016
Two men standing by a grill

The 50th annual Super Bowl is one that will stand out in history, but it shouldn’t be memorable because of foodborne illness! The Super Bowl is a time where many of us gather to enjoy company, food and drinks, football (and maybe some funny commercials). In fact, Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest day for food consumption in the nation – second only to Thanksgiving.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black has some great tips to help partygoers and hosts alike avoid ending up on the “injured reserve list.”

“Everyone loves a good Super Bowl party,” said Commissioner Black. “But whether you’re hosting or attending, you want to make sure no one ends up making any ‘personal fouls’ when it comes to food safety.”

Here are some easy tips to ensure food safety for everyone on Feb. 7:

Clean

Just like in football, hand control is key. In the game of food safety, if people prepare or handle food without washing hands first, pathogens on their hands have a chance to be passed on to ready to eat foods. Food preparers should wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food – and don't forget to wash food preparation surfaces often (cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops). For extra assurance, make a sanitizing solution using 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water and use on kitchen surfaces and utensils.

Separate

Avoid an “encroachment” or “off-sides” penalty.  Maintain separation between ready to eat foods and raw proteins (e.g., meat, poultry or seafood) which can cross-contaminate food and prep surfaces. Create your own “neutral zone!” Partition an area of the kitchen for raw protein preparation and another area for any ready to eat foods. Use separate cutting boards or, if you’re only using one, wash it with hot soapy water in between prepping different foods, and apply that sanitizing solution. The same is true for your serving dishes; don’t use the same platter to bring meat IN from the grill that you used to carry it OUT on (unless you wash it between uses).

Cook

For the chef/grill-master, the meat thermometer is your best piece of “protective equipment” and a vital culinary tool. Use it to make sure foods are thoroughly cooked to proper end-point temperatures, which will kill any harmful bacteria. Refer to the chart here to find the proper minimum cooking temperature for the meat being cooked. For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest three minutes before enjoying. The advantage is you know exactly when your food is safe to eat, and you lower the possibility of overcooking it. For additional thermometer tips, check out the USDA's kitchen thermometers handout.

Food Item

Temperature

Precooked Hot Dogs and Sausages

Until steaming

Steaks and Roasts (beef, pork, veal, lamb); Fin Fish; Pork

145 °F

Ground Beef; Pork (including raw brats); Veal or Lamb; Egg Dishes

160 °F

Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)

165 °F

Shrimp; Lobster; Crabs

Cook until pearly and opaque

Clams; Oysters; Mussels

Cook until the shells are open

Two-Hour Rule

Time management can win or lose the game; unfortunately for food safety, there is no way to stop the clock. One common food safety mistake is leaving perishable items out for too long. Super Bowl parties often last up to several hours and people put food out early so snacks are ready for everyone to munch on.

Any hot or cold foods that have been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours could begin to grow bacteria and cause illness. To prevent that from happening, use a chafing dish or slow cooker for hot foods, and put cold perishables in a bowl of ice, cooler or refrigerator. You can also set a timer and rotate food throughout your Super Bowl party to keep everything at proper temperatures, swapping out with fresh hot or cold items every two hours. Otherwise food can enter the danger zone (over 40 degrees for cold foods and under 135 degrees for hot foods), which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. (Remember, even in colder weather, this rule still applies!)

Booth Review

When football referees aren’t sure of the result of a play, they use instant replays and bring in others to ensure they make the right call. This Super Bowl Sunday, you don’t want to spend the best part of the game (or the rest of the week) sick. Some foodborne pathogens can cause serious illness. Fortunately, experts are on hand to help!

Call USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline anytime you need a “review from the booth” (1-888-674-6854 Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, with recorded messages after hours to answer questions).

You can also “Ask Karen” your questions anytime online! The interactive question-and-answer feature is available at askkaren.gov. Or check out Georgia Grown on Facebook to find fun Super Bowl recipe ideas submitted by local residents, and follow us on Twitter @GDAFoodSafety for Super Bowl tips and more.

About the Author

Thomas Burke, born and raised in Kansas, is pursuing his Masters in Public Health at Emory University, with an emphasis in epidemiology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Kansas State University in 2013 and worked previously at Kansas State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. He is currently interning with the Division of Food Safety at the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

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