Score big with safe food for your Super Bowl party

Published 2:10 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

It’s almost Super Bowl time! And your guests will be glued to the set … except when they dash to the “sideline” to load their plates with goodies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service says that just as football players protect themselves from injury with layers of gear and lots of training, you can protect yourself and your guests from foodborne illness by knowing and following four basic rules of the food safety game.

Rule No. 1—Avoid “illegal use of the hands.” Clean. If you or your guests prepare and touch food without washing your hands, it can result in a penalty. Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm, running water paying special attention to fingernails and rubbing your hands together. Wash kitchen surfaces with soap and hot water often.

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Rule No. 2—Avoid “encroachment.” Separate. Make sure you keep raw meats away from foods that are cooked or ready to eat. Use a clean cutting board for veggies and a separate one for raw meats. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that can make you sick if they come in contact with food that is ready to eat.

Rule No. 3—Head for the “Red Zone.” Cook. Make sure your food reaches high enough temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria and don’t get caught in the temperature danger zone. Use a food thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the food away from bones to tell when a food is safely heated. Once your foods are safely cooked, keep them hot (above 140 degrees F for serving) or cool them quickly to 40 degrees F or colder and then reheat them to at least 165 degrees F before serving later. Go defense! Do not leave foods sitting in the temperature danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees F for more than two hours. Use warming trays, crock pots and insulated containers to keep hot foods hot.

Rule No. 4—Block that kick! Chill. Keep cold foods cold to prevent bacteria from running up the score on you and your “teammates.” Cold foods should stay at 40 degrees or colder. Set bowls of cold food in ice or replace bowls frequently with fresh bowls of cold food straight from the refrigerator. If foods have stayed out at room temperature for more than two hours, toss them out of the game.

Following these four simple rules is the best protection from foodborne illness. So get out there and show ‘em how its done! Get in the safe food game!

If you would like more information on food safety, contact Ann Hudgins at 524-2326.