Pack food safety with your tailgate party

Submitted by:  Juli Hughes, County Coordinator

Mississippi State University Extension Service – Choctaw County  662-285-6337


Now that football season is starting up across the country, tailgaters are firing up their grills and breaking out their hamburgers, hot dogs and polish sausages. But a lot of hungry fans could be headed for the emergency room if they don’t take food safety precautions. A few well-planned steps may mean the difference between a food-safety nightmare and a sure success.

Although you can’t see or smell them, and often can’t taste them, bacteria are everywhere – especially on foods of animal origin. Under the right conditions bacteria can grow; food may spoil and foodborne illness may occur.

Which foods are safe to serve?  Single-serving, pre-packaged portions are the safest. Consider offering sandwiches, cookies, or other food items in individual, food-grade plastic bags or film wrap. This will minimize the number of people who come in contact with the food. Dry foods or those high in sugar are almost always safe. Breads, rolls, cakes (without cream filling), fresh fruits, cookies and crackers are safe. Use caution when serving cooked or processed foods such as lunch meat, hot dogs, vegetables and salads. High-protein foods like meat, milk and dishes containing eggs are potentially hazardous. You will want to be extra cautious with marinades.

Potatoes, rice, custards, puddings, pies, gravies and stuffings should be served with extreme caution. Time and temperature control of these foods is extremely important. The life of most deli meats and foods is short. Roast beef, chicken breast, and turkey have a shorter refrigerator life than processed meats or cold cuts.  These are just a few of the many foods that should be taken into precaution. The real true of the matter is that food safety should be taken into consideration for ALL FOODS.

Follow these simple steps to ensure safety for your next tailgate party.

Buy reasonable quantities.

If food won’t be served soon, store in a cooler immediately.

If food has been exposed to extreme temperatures while tailgating, don’t take home and reserve it.  Go ahead and discard it before you leave the tailgate site.

REMEMBER most food poisoning bacteria can NOT be seen, smelled, or tasted. Bacteria multiply fastest between temperatures of 41 and 140; it’s what we call the Danger Zone.

So when you are in doubt, throw it out! Keep hot foods HOT (above 140° F)
and cold foods COLD (41° F or below  ). For more food safety resources on how to keep your food safe, contact the Choctaw County Extension Office in the Courthouse Annex or call 285-6337.