Game plan for a safe Super Bowl
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services wants you to have a safe Super Bowl XLVIII party—safe food, that is. Many favorite Super Bowl foods are time and temperature sensitive: hot wings, chili, pizza, barbecue, sandwiches containing meat or eggs, dairy-based dips and more. If left too long at room temperature—anything after two hours—these foods can harbor harmful bacteria. The longer they sit, the greater the chances that bacteria will multiply and potentially sicken guests.
Cleanliness Counts: 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.
Some Teams Just Shouldn’t Play Together: Think of your party fare as two different teams—uncooked versus ready-to-eat foods. Prevent encroachment at all costs and keep each team in its own zone. The juices from raw meat can contain harmful bacteria that cross-contaminate other food. Use 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 and sanitize it after preparing each food item.
Take Temperatures to be Safe: 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, ground beef should be cooked to 155° F and all poultry should be cooked to 165° F. The stated degrees are minimum temperatures.
The Party May Last through the Night, but the Food Shouldn’t: Holding may be one of the most likely offenses your referee encounters if your party lasts late into the night. Never hold foods for more than two hours at room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block offensive bacteria from multiplying. The same rules apply for cold foods. If cold food has been sitting out for more than two hours, do not eat it. When in doubt, throw it out of the game—and your party.
When it comes to foodborne illness, there is no opportunity for an instant replay. To avoid these infractions, make sure you understand the rules completely. VDACS has more food safety information on its website atvdacs.virginia.gov/foodsafety/