Build Food Safety Into Tailgating Game Plan

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  9/6/2007 10:07:22 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 09/06/07

Tailgating in Louisiana gets in full swing with the kickoff of football season. To prevent food-borne illness, build your game plan around the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnership for Food Safety Education’s food safety steps, says Dr. Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter food safety specialist.

The four steps in the plan are clean, separate, cook and chill, Reames says.

Begin at home by making sure that items you pack for your tailgate party are clean. Include lots of clean utensils, not only for eating but also for serving the safely cooked food.

In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, pack a food thermometer to be sure the meat, poultry and casseroles reach a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present.

If your tailgate site doesn’t have a source of potable (drinkable) water, bring water for cleaning and drinking.

Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

Another important rule, Reames says, is to keep hot food hot. If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within two hours of purchase. Or plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing.

Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs or containers of frozen water. Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken and potato or pasta salads must be kept refrigerator-cold.

When packing the cooler for an outing, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food.

Not only keep hot food hot but also keep cold food cold, Reames says. Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. Never leave food in this “danger zone” more than two hours (one hour when the outside temperature is above 90 degrees).

Cook meat and poultry completely. Partial cooking of food ahead of time may allow bacteria to multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them, Reames warns.

Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown fast on the outside, so check using a food thermometer to be sure they are cooked thoroughly. Cook hamburgers, sausage and other ground meats (veal, lamb and pork) to an internal temperature of 160 degrees and ground poultry to 165 degrees. Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts may be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare. Cook poultry to 165 degrees. All cuts of pork should reach 160 degrees.

Here are some more tips:

  • Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Store food in the cooler except for brief times when serving. Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten to avoid the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature.
  • Discard any leftovers that are not ice cold after the game.
  • Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill more than two hours (one hour when the outside temperature is above 90 degrees). Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of food-borne illness.
  • To keep food like soup, chili and stew hot, use an insulated container. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed to keep the food hot (140 degrees or above) for several hours.

For additional information about preventing food-borne illness, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish or go to www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-1425, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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