Tailgate safely this football season

With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of food-borne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures.

-Be sure to wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source. Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

-Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

-Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

-Pack foods in reverse order so the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

-Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

-Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container the raw meat was in.

-Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill.

-Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry (160 degrees or higher for meat, 180 degrees or higher for poultry).

-Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked foods.

-Perishable foods should not be kept at temperatures above 40 degrees for more than two hours.

-Hot food should be kept at 140 degrees or hotter until served.

If you’re not sure if food is safe to eat, resort to the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Angela Treadaway is a regional extension agent serving Shelby County. She can be reached by phone at 410-3696.