Super Bowl Food Safety

Blow the whistle to keep food safe!

On February 13, my family will join millions of other Americans who watch Super Bowl LVI and feast on hot and cold snacks throughout the four-hour event. None of us are big football fans but we do like to be a part of this uniquely American entertainment tradition. In all honesty, I’m most attentive during the commercials! I don’t understand many of the rules of football but my family can always count on me to blow the whistle on food handling practices to keep food-borne illness risk low. “No double-dipping” has always been one of those reminders!

Unlike other food holidays when meals are often consumed within an hour, Super Bowl fans often snack on food throughout the four-hour game. Perishable foods, such as chicken wings, pulled pork sliders, and cold-cut appetizers, as well as cut fruit and vegetable platters with dips, can only be left out for two hours before they become at risk of bacteria multiplying to dangerous levels. Follow the USDA recommendations to put out small amounts of food and replenish it frequently.

The USDA and the Partnership for Food Safety Education have put out the following guidance to help all of us keep food at safe temperatures, practice proper hand washing and avoid cross-contamination.

Here are some food safety tips for Super Bowl Sunday:

#1 Remember Your Four Steps to Food Safety

  • Clean: Wash hands for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Clean hands, surfaces and utensils with soap and warm water before cooking and after contact with raw meat and poultry. After cleaning surfaces that raw meat and poultry has touched, apply a commercial or homemade sanitizing solution (1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water).
  • Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat or poultry and foods that are ready-to-eat.
  • Cook: Confirm foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature by using a food thermometer.
  • Chill: Chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking. Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.

#2 Cook Your Food to a Safe Internal Temperature

  • Using a food thermometer, ensure you reach a safe internal temperature when cooking: meat (whole beef, pork and lamb) 145 F with a 3-minute rest; ground meats 160 F; poultry (ground and whole) 165 F; eggs 160 F; fish and shellfish 145 F; and leftovers and casseroles 165 F.
  • If chicken wings are on the menu, use a food thermometer on several wings to gauge the doneness of the entire batch. If one is under 165 F, continue cooking all wings until they reach that safe internal temperature.

#3 Avoid the Danger Zone

  • Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 F and 140 F. This temperature range is called the danger zone.
  • Perishable foods should be discarded if left out for longer than two hours. To prevent food waste, refrigerate or freeze perishable items within two hours.
    • Keep cold foods at a temperature of 40 F or below by keeping food nestled in ice or refrigerated until ready to serve.
    • Keep hot foods at a temperature of 140 F or above by placing food in a preheated oven, warming trays, chafing dishes or slow cookers.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze them in shallow containers which helps leftovers cool quicker than storing them in large containers.

#4 Keep Takeout Food Safe

  • 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 (above 140 F) in a preheated oven, warming tray, chafing dish or slow cooker.
  • When reheating food containing meat or poultry, make sure the internal temperature reaches 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.

Adapted from USDA’s blog “Don’t Fumble Food Safety on Super Bowl Sunday.”

By Kathy Savoie, Extension Educator