October 21, 2021

Tailgating This Weekend? The USDA Offers Food Safety Tips

Tailgating, or eating in the parking lot of a stadium, is very popular during football season. Keeping food safe at these events requires safe food handling techniques, especially since refrigeration and running water aren’t available. The USDA is offering tailgating tips to help keep you safe. You can download a PDF of this information at the USDA web site.

Tailgate SafetyAlways pack cold perishable foods such as raw meats in insulated cooler with frozen gel packs or containers of ice. Keep an appliance thermometer in the cooler to make sure the food stays at 40 degrees F or below. Pack raw foods and cooked foods in separate coolers.

Hot take-out food should be eaten within two hours of purchase (don’t start the timing when you arrive at the event). All perishable foods should be eaten or discarded within two hours, or one hour if the ambient air temperature is above 90 degrees F.

Use insulated containers to keep hot food hot. Always reheat food to 165 degrees F if you have a grill on hand, and use that food thermometer.

Always marinate food in the fridge, never on the counter. If you’re going to serve marinade with the food, boil it for 2 minutes to destroy pathogenic bacteria. Transport marinated meats in the cooler and keep it cold until you’re ready to grill. Never partially cook meat at home and bring it to the tailgate party. Partial cooking of meats lets pathogenic bacteria survive and multiply.

These are the safe temperatures for cooking meat and poultry. Chicken and turkey should be cooked to  165 degrees F. Cook all ground meats to 160 degrees F. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, roasts, and chops should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees F. And fish should be cooked to 140 degrees F.

Avoid cross-contamination by always using a clean platter to hold cooked foods coming off the grill. Wrap raw foods tightly in several layers of wrapping so their juices don’t contaminate ready to eat foods. And use clean utensils when you take food off the grill.

Finally, leftovers must be thrown out. The cooler can’t chill food back to a safe temperature; it can only keep cold foods cold. Enjoy the game!

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