Follow Game Plan For Safe Tailgate Party Advises LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  9/21/2005 1:35:06 AM

News You Can Use For September 2005

Make sure you plan a good defense for keeping food safe at tailgate parties. Keeping food safe from home to stadium helps prevent foodborne illness, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

"If your tailgate site doesn’t have a source of potable (drinkable) water, bring water for cleaning and drinking," Reames says, adding, "Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces."

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.

"Keep hot food hot and cold food cold," Reames emphasizes, explaining that bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 F and 140 F. Never leave food in this "danger zone" more than two hours (one hour when the outside temperature is above 90 F). Cook meat and poultry completely. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.

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 it. 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 F or above) for several hours.

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, too. 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.

Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown very fast on the outside, so check them 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 F and ground poultry to 165 F. Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts may be cooked to 145 F to reach medium-rare. Poultry breast meat should be cooked to 170 F and dark meat to 180 F. All cuts of pork should reach 160 F.

"Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination," Reames advises.

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 F).

"Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness," Reames reminds tailgaters.

For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu

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