By: Whitney Morrow
Carter County Extension Agent
Tailgating has been a sporting tradition for decades. For many fans, football and tailgating go hand in hand. However, poor food handling procedures at your tailgating party could result in a foodborne illness. Take the following precautions to keep you and your visitors safe from foodborne illnesses.
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Parking lots don’t have access to running water so bring your own hand-wash station. Portable water jugs with a spigot can be found in the drinking water aisle of most grocery stores. Bring along liquid soap, paper towels and a bucket to catch wastewater. Wash your hands before and after preparing food and especially after using the portable restrooms. Always wash your hands before eating and encourage your tailgating friends to wash their hands before eating too.
Keep cold foods cold. Perishable food should be kept at temperatures below 40 degrees F. Use insulated coolers and plenty of ice or frozen gel packs to keep meat, poultry, sandwiches, dairy and deli salads cold. If you plan on grilling, keep the raw meat separated from ready-to-eat products and drinks. Use two coolers and designate one for raw ingredients and one for ready-to-eat.
Keep hot foods hot. Cooked foods should stay above 140 degrees F. Food can be kept hot in disposable pans on the grill. Insulated containers or Sterno heaters can also be used to keep casseroles and other cooked foods hot. If electricity is available, slow cookers are a great option for keeping foods like chili and homemade dips hot.
When grilling, use a metal-stemmed thermometer to ensure your meats reach the correct internal temperature before taking them off the grill. All poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F and ground meats like burgers should be cooked to 160 degrees F. Roasts, steaks and chops of beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 145 degrees F. Hot dogs and bratwurst should be cooked to 165 degrees F. Never use color as an indicator of doneness.
Eat prepared food within two hours. If the outside temperature is higher than 90 degrees, consume the food within an hour.
Once you’re finished with the pre-game celebrations, remember to throw away leftovers in trash cans with plastic liners and lids before heading into the stadium. After returning home, clean and sanitize all your food preparation equipment including coolers, thermometers and utensils.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.
Source: Annhall Norris, food preservation extension specialist