With Super Bowl party, food safety worth more than two points

As both the New England Patriots and New York Giants know, you win with defense. When it comes to planning a Super Bowl XLVI party, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants football fans to know how to play defense against potential foodborne illness.

“Great food, large groups of friends and cheering on your team are what make Super Bowl parties so much fun,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “We want to give hosts a few easy tactics to reduce the chances that their guests will develop foodborne illness amidst all the excitement at their Super Bowl parties.”


First Down: Clean

Clean hands and surfaces with soap and water to avoid a “false start” before preparing food. Unclean hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria, and finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, be sure to clean eating surfaces often, and wash serving platters before replenishing them with fresh food.


Second Down: Separate

Think of your party fare as two different teams — uncooked versus ready-to-eat foods. The juices from raw meat may contain harmful bacteria that will “sack,” or cross-contaminate, ready-to-eat food that would otherwise score big with your guests. Block opposing players by using one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for cutting veggies or foods that will not be cooked. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.


Third Down: Cook

Call a “time out” and use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked. Remember that internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness. Steaks should be cooked to 145 °F followed by a three minute rest time, ground beef should be cooked to 160 °F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 °F.


Fourth Down: Chill

The Giants may be hoping for a second victory over the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday, but going back for a second helping of party food could mean a giant defeat if food is left at room temperature for too long. Any perishable foods that are not served with a hot source, such as a chafing dish or slow cooker, or a cold source, such as a bowl of ice placed under the serving dish, should be discarded after two hours at room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block bacteria from multiplying. When in doubt, throw it out of the game — and your party.

Slow cookers are not safe for reheating leftovers. Cooked food should be reheated on a stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until it reaches 165 °F. Then the hot food can be placed in a preheated slow cooker to keep it hot (at least 140 °F) for serving.

When it comes to foodborne illness, there is no opportunity for an instant replay. To avoid a flag on your winning play, make sure you understand the rules completely. One of the best resources available before kickoff is our Defensive Coordinator, Ask Karen. She is on the headset as USDA’s virtual representative and available at AskKaren.gov. Food safety coaches are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET through Ask Karen’s live chat feature and by phone at the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854). Recorded messages are available 24 hours a day.

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