LIVE

Talk about a party foul—here’s how to make sure no one gets food poisoning while watching the big game, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

By Betty Gold
January 26, 2021
Advertisement

It's prime time for football fans. Super Bowl LV will be held on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. And though this year's big game will look different than it has in the past, many viewers—hopefully your family included—will still be serving up homemade Super Bowl foods or ordering take-out for the big game. (Find our guide to hosting a socially distant outdoor viewing party here).

And whether you're a seasoned hostess or will be having your own viewing party for the first time—only members of your household, please!—the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants to make sure your game day feast follows all the proper food safety protocol. After all, many of us are guilty of letting foods sit out for hours on end during the Super Bowl, including highly perishable dishes like chicken wings and dips. How can you keep food safe during the game, and how long can you leave food out before it goes bad? Here, Veronika Pfaeffle, a public affairs specialist in the Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education for the USDA's FSIS, provides her top tips for avoiding a bout of family food poisoning on game day.

Wash Your Hands

It's important to wash your hands before, during, and after preparing any meals, especially if you’re preparing raw foods (including raw frozen foods). “Proper hand washing after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood. and eggs can greatly reduce the risk of cross-contamination,” Pfaeffle explains. Hand washing should always include five simple steps:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the Happy Birthday song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

Enlist a Food Thermometer

Always use a food thermometer to cook meat, poultry, fish, and egg dishes to a safe minimum internal temperature. “Color is never a reliable indicator of safety and doneness,” says Pfaeffle. Food thermometers are widely available and super easy to use—you can even find Bluetooth-connected, wireless options, like the Yummly Smart Thermometer ($129, yummly.com) that alerts you on your mobile device when your food is cooked. When taking temperatures manually, remember this list of minimum internal temperatures:

  • Cook raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to 145 °F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • Cook raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to 160 °F.
  • Cook egg dishes to 160 °F.
  • Cook fish to 145 °F.
  • Cook raw poultry to 165 °F.
  • To correctly take the temperature of burgers, insert the food thermometer through the side of the patty, until the probe reaches the center to detect cold spots. The thermometer should read 160 °F.
  • For chicken wings, place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the wing, avoiding the bone. The thermometer should read 165 °F.

Transfer Takeout You Won’t Eat Right Away to the Fridge (and if You’re Eating in the Near Future, the Oven)

If you order food and it’s delivered or picked up in advance of the big game, divide the food into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate until ready to reheat and serve. You can also keep the food warm in a preheated oven, warming tray, chafing dish, or slow cooker.

Reheat Food to a Safe Temperature—and Be Smart With Your Slow Cooker

When reheating food containing meat or poultry, make sure the internal temperature is 165 °F as measured by a food thermometer. If heating food in the microwave, ensure that contents are evenly dispersed. Because microwaved food can have cold spots, be sure to stir food evenly until the food has reached a safe internal temperature throughout. “Always, it is not recommended to use a slow cooker or chafing dish to reheat food,” adds Pfaeffle. “These are only safe to use to keep hot foods hot once the product has already reached a safe minimum internal temperature.”

Keep Food Out of the Temperature Danger Zone for More Than Two Hours

Follow the two-hour rule: bacteria grow rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F. “That temperature range is what is known as the Danger Zone,” explains Pfaeffle. “Perishable foods such as chicken wings, pizza, and chili left at room temperature longer than two hours should be discarded.”

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

“On that note, when serving food, it is important to remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold,” Pfaeffle says. “Nearly 85 percent of respondents to a USDA national web survey indicated that they do not place cold foods on ice when hosting large gatherings and store or discard the leftovers after two hours.” Keep cold foods at an internal temperature of 40°F or below by keeping food on ice or refrigerated until ready to serve.

Pfaeffle adds that in the same national web survey, 66 percent of respondents indicated they did not keep their hot foods warm after cooking. Hot foods should be kept warm (above 140 °F) until they are eaten. Keep hot foods at an internal temperature of 140 °F or above by placing food in a preheated oven, warming trays, chafing dishes, or slow cookers.

Avoid Storing Leftovers in Large Containers

Dividing leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerating or freezing them in shallow containers helps the leftovers cool quicker than storing them in large containers. “Quicker cooling helps prevent foods from entering the Danger Zone,” Pfaeffle explains.

If you have questions, contact the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.