Tailgate Safely This Football Season

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This past weekend marked the start of the college football season, and NFL fans can very soon look forward to the beginning of that season as well.  Fans will be descending on stadiums in droves long before the games begin, and they could stay long after a game draws to a close.  It’s all a part of the tradition known as tailgating, something that many people consider as much as part of the game as tackling.

But with tailgating comes certain safety hazards that revelers have to be cognizant of.  Too many tailgaters don’t take the same food safety precautions that they would in their home, and as a result, they put everyone at risk.  To help you and your friends avoid foodborne illness, consider the safety tips on hand from a report out of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to tailgating:  preparing food prior to leaving the home, or preparing it right there at the party.  If you’re of a mind to cook food before you head out, make sure you cook it all the way through.  Once it’s ready, you need to store it in a cooler as soon as possible.  Ice things down to below 40 degrees and then have some means to heat the food back up once you arrive.

What you mustn’t do is placed cooked or ready-made food with raw items in the same cooler.  This is a surefire way to expose guests to foodborne illness.  Instead, have separate coolers for the different types of food.  You might even put drinks in their own cooler so that the constant opening and closing of that unit doesn’t compromise the temperature you’ve strived to achieve with the food.

At a tailgating party, the temptation will be to let cleanliness lapse.  Many people wouldn’t think twice about handling raw food and then reaching into a nacho cheese dip before washing their hands.  This is unacceptable.  Anytime you handle a raw item, you absolutely must wash your hands before you touch anything else.  Have hand sanitizer available for this purpose if soap and water isn’t around.

The other big hazard many people overlook is the threat posed when food is left out for far too long.  Many people might toss all the food in the trunk, head into the game, then come out to eat more at halftime, repeating that process at the end of the game.  But if perishables are involved, this makes foodborne illness more likely.  It doesn’t take long for bacteria to settle in, and you should thus toss out anything that could be susceptible.

Finally, watch your alcohol intake.  Drink responsibly and always have a designated driver or a plan to get yourself home that doesn’t put you and everyone you share the road with at risk.