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Posted in Food Safety on January 31, 2020
Game day is almost upon us, which isn’t really saying much – between the MLB, the NBA, the NHL, and the MLG, game day is always upon us. But you probably already knew which game I meant: the BIG GAME who’s name I cannot say because there are legal concerns about that. It’s a yearly event that, for an afternoon, transforms the contours of American life. Road traffic and revenue for many businesses plummets; primetime ad prices spike; everyone gears up in anticipation of the Puppy Bowl.
Also, of course, there’s football. These days, that usual means watching the Patriots play against someone else. But football isn’t always entertaining by its own lights; for many of us, the game is a bit stop and go, with less than 20 minutes of actual play stretched out over hours of game time. To fill the spaces in between, many of us turn to the delights of food and drink. That would be cheap beer, chips and dip, chicken wings, and the like. Sometimes, for a particularly big game gathering, there’s a proper dinner of a full-on buffet prepared.
If you, dear reader, are the one tapped to handle the preparation of this food, you may be somewhat stressed out right now. There’s not just all the work of buying the ingredients, doing the prep, cooking the different dishes, and making sure that it all gets served up in a timely fashion for the big party. You’re reading this blog, so you’re probably worried about food safety as well, and want to make sure that you don’t inadvertently poison your guests.
Well, worry not. We here at Make Food Safe have done the research and prepared the following handy guide to food safety for the big game. Read up, and you should know everything that you need to cater game day without any unfortunate food-related incidents — that is, short of your uncle flipping over the bowl of Cheetos when his team loses at the last minute.
One of the keys to food safety is washing up properly. This means your hands, of course: we recommend getting a good lather going before scrubbing vigorously under hot water for at least 20 seconds. There are different schools of hand washing, but I personally like to rub my hands together like a villain from an old-timey cartoon. Be sure you get the backs of your hands and the spaces between your fingers, where nasty pathogens are sometimes able to hide out and survive the scrubbing. If you really want to get high level, slant your hands downward so that the water drains off your fingertips in a way that minimizes moisture and thus denies bacteria a wet environment in which to regrow.
Also, you’ll want to thoroughly wash or wipe down any surfaces, utensils, and cookware that are going to be used for food. You’ve probably done this, because you’re smart, but it’s good to be reminded. If you really want to get serious, put out little things of hand sanitizer for your guests to use. It might sound excessive, but with everybody reaching into that bowl of chips, who knows what could happen?
You can’t and shouldn’t mess around with this. Make sure that anything you serve up that needs cooking has been cooked through properly. Use a meat thermometer and the CDC’s website to determine proper temperatures (160 degrees Fahrenheit for most foods, a little less for some exceptions). Make sure that they’ve been fully heated through to the appropriate temperature.
If you’re throwing a big party, you probably aren’t cooking everything the day of. Some foods – your killer 7 layer dip, for example – may have been prepared the day before. That’s smart! It gives you more time to focus on other aspects of party prep and ensure that all of your bases are covered. Just don’t forget to store that dip properly before the party. You’ll want it covered up so that pathogens in the environment can’t hop on, and you’ll want to keep it at or below 40 degrees so that any pathogens that might be there don’t have the chance to spread (get it?)
This recommendation applies to a couple of different things. Remember above, when we said that you should have some hand sanitizer on hand to minimize germ spread from people reaching into the same bowl? Even better is to have small plates for your guests to use and serving utensils that allow them to get the food out of the bowl and eat without touching the food directly. It’s not just their hands and the food that should stay separate, however – remember to keep any raw meats separate from other foods. The same goes for whatever kitchen implements that you’re using to prepare them.
Once the Puppy Bowl has wrapped and everyone has finally gone home, you’re probably going to be feeling pretty ready to put your feet up and call it a day. Don’t do that without putting your leftovers in Tupperware and popping them in the fridge first. You’ll want to do this for any prepared food quickly, as sitting at room temperature is exactly the kind of conditions where pathogens spread. Once the food is in the fridge, you can take it out and reheat it exactly once. Any more than that and you’re asking for trouble. It should keep for four days, however, so just serve yourself up and reheat as needed during that window.
By: Sean McNulty, Contributing Writer (Non-lawyer)