Safe tailgate party

Prevent food poisoning at your tailgate!

Football season is finally here! Fall takes us to stadiums, cheering for our teams and meeting with friends and family over food and drinks at tailgate parties. Just because the outside temperature ranges from 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, does not mean you can leave your cold foods un-iced and your hot foods on the table. Without keeping them at the proper temperatures, the food safety danger zone (between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) can come on quickly.

Because you’re in a sweatshirt and jacket, you may think it is cold enough outside to keep your cold foods chilled; but without keeping them in a refrigerator or on ice, you run the risk of bacterial growth and foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that one of every six people each year suffer with cases of foodborne illness (food poisoning), with 128,000 being sick enough to be hospitalized, and 3,000 dying.

When foods are not held at the proper temperatures, bacteria can grow to levels that can make you sick. E.coli and Salmonella are just a couple of bacteria that like to grow at temperatures between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit – the temperatures of the air you are experiencing in the parking lots of the stadiums!

How can we keep our tailgate safe? Keep hot foods hot – they must be held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit after being cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for hot holding. Keep hot foods covered to keep the air from cooling, and take the temperature of your hot foods every so often to make sure they are safe. Keep cold foods on ice or in a refrigerator. They should also be covered so the air temperature doesn’t warm them. Stir anything you can to keep the hot and/or cold temperatures consistent in the container.

Michigan State University Extension advises on being aware of the two-hour rule – foods must be put away and chilled within two hours to avoid bacterial growth. Make sure when you leave to watch the game that everything is put away and refrigerated, or thrown away, before the two hours are done.

Tailgating is a great way to spend a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Enjoy these fall outings and stay safe. If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office, call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464) or read more online at

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