Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Super Bowl Sunday Food Safety-Illegal Use of Hands

A wooden chopping board with a chef's knife.
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This is courtesy of the FDA

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2010—When planning a Super Bowl XLIV party, hosts should have a defensive strategy against foodborne illness for their guests. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends closely refereeing the following food safety violations so every partygoer returns home a winner.

Illegal use of hands
Avoid penalties for “illegal use of hands.” Unclean hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria, and finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, be sure to clean surfaces often, and wash platters before replenishing them with fresh food.

Think of your party fare as two different teams—uncooked and ready-to-eat foods. Prevent “encroachment” at all costs and keep each team in its own zone. The juices from raw meat can contain harmful bacteria that cross-contaminate other food. Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for cutting veggies. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.

Equipment violations and holding
Call a “time out” and use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked. Remember that internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness. Steaks should be cooked to 145 °F, ground beef should be cooked to 160 °F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 °F.

“Holding” may be one of the most likely offenses your referee encounters if your Super Bowl party lasts late into the night. Never hold foods for more than two hours at room temperature, or between 40 °F and 140 °F. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block offensive bacteria from multiplying. The same rules apply for cold foods. If cold food has been sitting out for more than two hours, do not eat it. When in doubt, throw it out.

False start
When it comes to foodborne illness, there is no opportunity for an instant replay. To avoid these infractions, make sure you understand the rules completely. One of the best resources available before kickoff is USDA’s virtual representative, “Ask Karen,” a feature that also allows you to ask food safety-related questions 24 hours a day.

Visit “Ask Karen” for food safety particulars. Food safety coaches are available on the “Ask Karen Chat” and by phone at the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-674-6854.

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