Tailgate Food Poisoning Risks Lead to Safety Recommendations from USDA

With football season in high gear, federal health officials are taking stps to raise awareness about the risk of food poisoning from tailgating events, providing a series of recommendations on how to properly handle, transport and cook food away from a normal kitchen setting. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) released tailgating food safety recommendations on October 10, which are designed to address problems with cross-contamination and reduce the risk of food poisoning illnesses.

The FSIS released the series of food recommendations in time for Fall,

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While the weather is milder, and many individuals tailgate at sporting events, as well as in parks nationwide, transporting raw food in coolers and preparing the food on portable grills or cook tops.

The FSIS warns that while these types of events can be fun and enjoyable, there are safety precautions that should be taken to prevent the cross contamination of uncooked meats and mitigate the risk of food poisoning by proper storing and transporting food items.

When preparing for a tailgating event, FSIS officials recommend always packing paper towels, moist towelettes, plenty of ice, paper plates and disposable silverware, a food thermometer, and plenty of clean containers to store remaining food.

Cross contamination can occur in many stages of a tailgating event, whether it occurs from juices of raw meats leaking from a package inside of a cooler or from accidentally using the same tray that raw meats were on to place cooked food items. Officials recommend always taking two coolers, one for food and one for beverages, and to never use the same serving dishes for food preparation and serving. A food cooler should always have the raw meats or poultry wrapped tightly and set at the bottom, to prevent juices from contaminating other items.

The FSIS also recommends always washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling raw meat or poultry. During food preparation, individuals should always wipe down tables and utensils.

Meat and poultry items should always be cooked thoroughly and have the internal temperature checked appropriately by using a thermometer. Whether meat or poultry is cooked appropriately cannot be determined by looking at it from the outside. Given that different meats and poultry items have different minimum internal temperatures, individuals should consult with the minimum cooking temperatures chart to be safe, the recommendations state.

Lastly, officials warn that when your outdoor tailgating event is over and it is time to pack the food away, to always make sure you are storing food in unused, clean containers to prevent further contamination.


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