It's that time of year again. School is back in session, football season has started, and so has tailgating. Oftentimes, when we are at tailgating events, food safety is the last thing on our minds, but consider that each year, one in six Americans or roughly 48 million people will get sick from food poisoning or improper food handling.1 Here are the top five tips to keep yourself and your guests safe and well.
- Use a meat thermometer and measure the temperature of what you are cooking. Even if you are a “grill master,” always check your grilled items to make sure that they reach safe temperatures. Undercooked food is the most common culprit for foodborne illness.
- Use separate platters for uncooked and cooked meats - never reuse a plate that has touched uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs without washing and sanitizing.
- You can keep grilled items warm by moving to the side of the grill rack away from the coals to avoid overcooking. Also, never eat food that has been out for over two hours (if the temperature is above 90⁰ F, the time is reduced to one hour). “Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness.”2
- 40⁰ F or below is the safe temperature for refrigerating food. Remember, first in, last out. Pack food in reverse order so you will open the cooler less, which keeps temperatures lower. Also, by using a separate cooler for drinks, you will greatly reduce the amount of time your food cooler is open.
- Do not partially cook meat at home and then transport for grilling. This actually promotes bacteria growth. Once meat or poultry starts cooking, it should continue cooking until it reaches a safe temperature.
Janiece Attal is a Product Manager, Food Services at Skillsoft.
1Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), January 8, 2014.
2Tailgating Food Safety Q & A. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), July 2, 2013.