Food safety tips make fall picnics, tailgates winners
There's nothing like a tailgate party ahead of a big game to bring people together for good food and fun, and a few simple tips can help keep the event safe.
With the U.S. Department of Agriculture's designation of September as Food Safety Education Month, this is a great time for a few reminders on how to keep food safe while tailgating, picnicking and during other outdoor events, said Karen Blakeslee, K-State Research and Extension food scientist. This year, the USDA is targeting cross contamination.
"Cross contamination occurs when bacteria from one food is transferred to another," said Blakeslee, who cited cross contamination as a frequent error at picnics, potlucks, and tailgating during the fall sports season.
Blakeslee, who is an avid football fan and experienced tailgater, said that transporting food can increase the risk of a food safety mistake. But those mistakes are preventable.
To ensure that juices from meat or poultry do not to seep onto other foods, 1) use protective plastic bags available at the grocery store; 2) place meat and poultry items on the lower basket of the cart so juices will not drip onto fresh fruits, vegetables and other items in the cart; and 3) separate and store foods by category once home.
When holding or thawing frozen meat or poultry in the refrigerator, place it in a shallow baking pan or tray with a lip to catch juices and avoid cross contamination, she said.
Errors also can occur when plates, platters, knives and other serving utensils are used for both raw and cooked foods without washing before and after each use, said Blakeslee, who advises cooks to dedicate utensils to each food item and keep raw foods separate from cooked foods.
A seemingly simple mistake--using the serving spoon for potato salad to dip into a fruit salad in the next bowl--could cause foodborne illness, she said.
If grilling meats and poultry on the same grill with fruits and vegetables, she also advises using separate areas of the grill for each.
Washing the rind before cutting into a melon with a clean knife will reduce the risk of transferring potentially harmful bacteria that may have been present in the soil in which the melon grew.
More information on food and food safety is available at K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state and online at www.rrc.ksu.edu.
Fall picnic and tailgate checklist
With fall picnics, potlucks and tailgates often planned at locations without running water, Karen Blakeslee, a football fan, tailgater and K-State Research and Extension food scientist, shares quick tips for a safe and successful gathering:
--Plan a menu to match the size of your group to minimize waste and leftovers that could spoil during the game.
--If sharing the responsibilities for the food, ask those traveling the shortest distances to bring the perishable foods; invite others to bring non-perishable items.
--Use one insulated cooler for raw foods such as beef patties, brats or chicken, and a separate insulated cooler for perishable cooked foods, such as cooked meats, pasta or potato salad.
--Dedicate a third cooler for beverages that can be opened more frequently without jeopardizing the safety of other foods. Each time a cooler is opened, the temperature inside the cooler rises.
--Place plenty of ice and an appliance thermometer in each cooler; food should remain at 40 degrees F or below.
--Transport food in the air-conditioned passenger compartment, and shade it with a blanket.
--Shade coolers, picnic basket and other foods on site.
--Position a grill or other cooking appliance well away from a vehicle or other flammable materials, including recreational equipment. And, keep children and pets away from an open flame and other hot grilling and cooking equipment.
--Pack a food thermometer, and check internal cooked temperatures; Poultry, 165 degrees F; ground meats, 160 degrees F; and beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, roasts and chops, 145 degrees F. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees F.
--If serving hot cooked soup, such as chili that will be transported, make it in advance; cover and chill it well before packing in a cooler, and reheat on site to 165 degrees F.
--Pack water, moist towelettes, soap, hand sanitizer, paper or other towels.
--Check tableware, and bring enough serving containers and clean utensils for both raw and cooked foods.
--Wait to get food out until shortly before cooking and serving; shade foods from direct sunlight, and return leftovers to coolers within one hour or less if the temperature is 90 degrees F or above, and two hours or less if the temperature is lower.
--If planning to pick up fried chicken or pizzas, make the pick-up the last stop before the picnic or tailgate, and serve the hot food promptly.
--If sharing cooking responsibilities for a large group, keep recipes separate, rather than blending them, to simplify identifying an errant food if foodborne illness becomes an issue.
--Plan snacks that will not need to be cooked for half-time and post-game gatherings, rather than relying on leftovers that need to be reheated.
--Cool the grill or other cooking appliances completely before packing them for the trip home. Dispose of coals or other flammable materials safely to reduce the risk of fire.