As you head out to tailgate before the big game, remember food safety is key to defeat foodborne bacteria. Some of these steps are probably in your food plan, so look for those not yet part of your pre-game events.

The Play by Play

• Keep cold perishable foods in an insulated cooler with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or another cold source. Cold items should be held at 40°F or below in a cooler. Put an appliance thermometer in your cooler to monitor temperature.

• Pack foods in your cooler in reverse-use order — pack foods first that you are likely to use last. Remember to securely package raw meat and poultry to prevent cross-contamination with other items.

• Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold.

• When traveling, transport the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. Keep the cooler out of direct sun.

• Hot take-out foods should be consumed within two hours of purchase.

• Hot foods prepared at home to take to the tailgate should be held in an insulated container. Keep the container closed to keep heat in.

• Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit out for more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).

• Bring non-perishable snacks for after the game, so you aren’t tempted to eat perishable food that has been sitting out for too long.

Grilling All-StarsYes, it is nice enough weather to still be using your grill.

• Grill foods to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure. When cooking meat, check the temperature of the thickest part, and avoid the bone, fat and gristle. Be sure to clean the thermometer after each use.

• Prevent cross-contamination by using clean utensils and platters for cooked food. Never put cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

• Grilled food can be kept hot until serving by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals to avoid overcooking.

• When bringing food to a tailgate, do not partially cook meats and finish cooking on the grill. Partially cooked meats are at increased risk for bacterial growth.

Clean your Way to Victory

• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Prepare a tailgate handwashing station by bringing water, soap and paper towels. Hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes will work in a pinch, but they are not as effective at removing dirt and bacteria from hands.

• Be sure to clean food-contact surfaces with water and soap or with disinfecting spray or wipes.

Your Food Safety Game Plan. Be sure to have the following items on hand before the big game:

• Insulated cooler

• Ice or frozen gel packs

• Appliance thermometer

• Water

• Dish soap

• Hand sanitizer (in case you run out of soap and water)

• Disinfecting spray

• Food thermometer

• Clean platters and utensils to hold cooked foods

• Non-perishable snacks source: fightback.org

Although these tips are specific for outdoor tailgate events, they apply to all food handling outside of a kitchen setting. Enjoy the game by preventing food borne illness from ruining the event.

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at (208)785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.