Tailgating requires food safety
Published 2:29 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Carolyn Bivins – Extension agent
I can just hear the sports announcer shouting loud and clear “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOT BALL?”
YES! Football season is definitely here, and that means thousands of us all across the state will be tailgating before and after games.
Although tailgating traditions vary among schools and regions, they all include food. The heat in the Southeast sometimes dictates the food selections for tailgating. During the early part of football season, while temperatures are still quite warm, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers are always a favorite, as are fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans served with your favorite cold beverage. Ummmm Yum!.
As temperatures cool down, soups, chili and stews gain more attention, along with hot chocolate and coffee.
No matter what the food, safety should always be the main concern. Keep up with how long perishable food is left out. Perishable foods should not be above 40 degrees F for more than two hours.
Sometimes people think just because food has been cooked, it cannot spoil. Bacteria can grow in foods both before and after the cooking process. Foodborne illness is always a possibility when the food's temperature is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F for more than two hours.
About seven million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year. About 85 percent of those cases could be avoided with proper handling.
Preparing food at home can save time and work at the tailgating site, but some last-minute mixing can improve food safety. Meats can be partially cooked, then quickly refrigerated, transported in ice chests and cooked completely on a grill at the site. Some foods, such as chicken or sausage, can be boiled for a short time, up to eight minutes.
Improper handling of cooking utensils can also encourage foodborne illness. For example, example is cutting raw meat with a knife and then using the same knife to cut lettuce or fresh vegetables without thoroughly washing the knife poses a risk. Bacteria from the meat is transferred to the vegetables by the knife.
The transfer of bacteria also occurs when the same unwashed plate or platter is used to carry meat back and forth to the grill.
To avoid cross-contamination, always clean utensils and hands with hot, soapy water. Two teaspoons of unscented bleach mixed with a gallon of rinse water adds extra assurance of sterilization of utensils. Scrub hands together with soap for 20 seconds instead of just swiping them under running water. Clean between fingers and under nails.
Cooking foods to the proper temperature is another way to ensure safety. Don't judge the doneness of meat by its color. Beef cooked to a grayish shade does not mean the middle has reached 160 degrees , which is the recommended temperature for ground meat. Poultry needs to reach 180 degrees F to be thoroughly cooked.
Coolers also play an important role in combating foodborne illness. Juices from the uncooked meats stored in a cooler should not touch other foods. Keep coolers tightly closed and do not open unless necessary. The temperature is more likely to change the more it is opened. Keep all cold foods below 40 degrees . As time passes, replenish the melted ice. Pour out standing water.
All hot foods placed in a cooler shortly after preparation should maintain safe temperature for about 30 minutes. Always monitor the temperature with a thermometer.
Some foodborne illnesses take four hours to 50 days before you get sick. It is not a pleasant experience and, with just a few simple precautions, can be avoided.
Tailgate themes can be as simple as a consistent color or pattern for tablecloths, plates, napkins and cups or as detailed as a floral centerpiece, candelabras or serving wild game meat and decorating with camouflage.
Good tailgaters clean up properly after they have eaten. They place all paper, cans, bottles, discarded food and any other trash in a large trash bag and close it tightly. Then place the trash bag in a dumpster before leaving the tailgating site.
Remember to have fun, support your favorite team and KEEP FOOD SAFE!