Tailgating Food Safety Tips
In warm weather there would not be
any problem in caring for food to go, if you could just throw the
refrigerator under one arm and take it with you. Simply, that is the
best way to battle food poisoning. You want to keep perishable
foods, especially meat and poultry, cold between preparation and
Why keep food cold?
At warm temperatures above 60� F.,
food poisoning bacteria can begin to multiply and cause illness. At
summer temperatures above 80� F., they multiply very quickly. While
food poisoning usually means uncomfortable intestinal flu-like
symptoms, it can be serious in the young, the old, and people with
other illnesses. The rarely occurring botulism, of course, is always
Food poisoning is a larger problem
than you might think too over 2 million people a year is affected!
Moreover, food poisoning bacteria are tough to deal with because you
usually do not even know they are present. They are microscopic in
size, and you normally cannot see, smell, or taste them.
For food safety, prevention is the
watchword. By observing the cold storage, sanitation, and thorough
cooking rules in this booklet, you can keep your food safe any time
you pack it to go.
�Let�s Have A
When a fine summer afternoon makes
everyone �think picnic,� you could find yourself organizing one.
Never fear. Find the picnic hamper and the cooler. Then thumb
through these warm weather food care hints before you head to the
- Buy perishable products last at
the store and get them right home to the refrigerator, or into
the portable ice-chest or insulated bag you are taking on the
picnic. Never leave perishables in a hot car while you run other
Cold storage of picnic food
- For quick use, you can keep
perishable products in the refrigerator for a few days. If the
store wrap on meat and poultry is clean and not torn, leave it
on. Otherwise, re-wrap products in clean plastic or aluminum
wrap. Make sure the refrigerator is cooling food to 40� F or
- For longer storage, freeze food.
Wrap items tightly in heavy freezer foil or bags. Make sure your
freezer registers 0� F or lower. NOTE: Mayonnaise-based
meat, poultry and fish salads do not freeze well. Nor do
tomatoes and lettuce.
Thawing -do if the night before
Contrary to common practice, it is not
safe to thaw meat and poultry on the kitchen counter.
Bacteria can multiply dangerously in the outer layers before you
thaw inner areas. Instead...
- To allow plenty of time for
larger cuts to thaw, take meat or poultry out of the freezer and
put it on a refrigerator shelf a night or two before you need
it. Small cuts will usually thaw in the refrigerator over-night.
- However, if the meat is still
partially frozen when you are ready to leave, no problem. Just
cook it a bit longer at the picnic.
- And cook everything thoroughly.
You should cook hamburger patties, pork chops, and ribs until
all the pink is gone; poultry until there is no red in the
joints. You should cook fresh fish until it �flakes� with a
- Steak? If you like your steak
rare or medium-rare, just remember that there is a chance that
some food poisoning organisms can survive such short cooking
Take what you know about kitchen
cleanliness out to the grill
- If there is no water faucet
available, use disposable, wet handi-wipes to clean your hands
before working with food.
- Keep bacteria on raw meat and
poultry from spreading. Wash your hands again after working with
raw meat or poultry and before handling other food.
Moreover, take up cooked meat and
poultry with clean utensils onto a fresh plate for serving. Do not
re-use utensils, plates, or bowls you used with the raw product, for
either the cooked meat or the other food.
COOL-IT with a cooler
For a relaxed, worry-free picnic,
keep your perishable food, ham, potato or macaroni salad, hamburger,
hot dogs, lunch meat, cooked beef or chicken, deviled eggs, custard
or cream pies, in a cooler.
While you should keep all
mayonnaise-based salads on ice, the mayonnaise you buy at the store
is not a food poisoning villain. Its high acid content actually
slows bacterial growth. However, homemade mayonnaise, if made
without lemon juice or vinegar, can be risky.
The cooler should be well insulated
and packed with ice, or you can use a freeze-pack insert. Cold
drinks in cans help keep other food cool too. When possible, place
the cooler in the shade. Keep the lid on.
Serving young picnickers
Toddlers who do not chew food well
can choke when they try to �swallow things whole.� To minimize
this danger, supervise mealtime. Keep the child seated. Cut hotdogs
lengthwise in narrow strips before serving. Watch carrot and celery
sticks, grapes, apples, cookies, and nuts too. Cut or crumble these
foods into pieces too small to block the child's throat.
Put perishable foods back in the
cooler as soon as you finish eating. Do not leave them out while you
go for a swim or hike. When possible, put the chest in the passenger
area of the car for the trip home. It is much cooler than the trunk!
If you were gone no more than 4 or
5 hours, and your perishables were on ice except when cooked and
served, you should be able to save the leftovers.
�Take Me Out to
the Football Game!�
Question: Could food poisoning
invade your cool weather outing?
Let us say it is a football game or
a concert � whatever would prompt you to head out to the stadium
with a great hot supper to share with friends. Would not the low
outside temperatures eliminate most problems with food poisoning?
Not entirely. Food poisoning is
much less of a threat in cooler weather, but bacteria can still grow
any time they enjoy the right temperatures, between 60� and 125�
F, long enough.
Therefore, if the centerpiece of
your tailgate supper, a hot chili, stew, chowder, or sausage
casserole, cools into the DANGER temperature zone, it could become a
How can you prevent it?
Use the thermos bottle properly
A clean, well-functioning thermos
can keep your hot food at a safe temperature for several hours, but
it's up to you to make sure the thermos is working properly.
- Check the seal around the
stopper to make sure it fits tightly. This will keep the food at
a safe, high temperature.
- Right before use, rinse the
clean thermos with boiling water. Then bring the food to as high
a temperature as you can before pouring it in. This will keep
the food temperature as high as possible until you are ready to
If you can keep your hot food above
140� F, it should stay safe. (At 140� F, liquid is hot to the
- Try to prepare just enough
thermos food to serve your guests without leftovers. If you do
have a tiny bit left, you should probably discard it when you
Taking a casserole?
A thoroughly cooked casserole will
usually stay safe (and warm) in cool weather if you insulate it