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Win big with these 7 food safety tips for your Super Bowl 50 party

Avoid food safety penalties at your Super Bowl party by following these seven tips. (Photo: iStock)
Avoid food safety penalties at your Super Bowl party by following these seven tips. (Photo: iStock)

Whether you root for the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers — or just like watching the big game and the ads — food and drink are certain to be a major component of the day.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s the second-highest day of food consumption in the United States, right behind Thanksgiving.

It can also be a long day of partying, with guests arriving early to have some refreshments before coverage starts. And the game is sure to be a long one, when you factor in commercial breaks and the half-time show.

While you’re scouting out recipes to serve your guests, make sure you don’t incur any penalties by observing these food safety tips, courtesy of the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Referee illegal use of hands

(Photo: iStock)

1. Illegal use of hands

Before and after preparing or handling food, always wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Unclean hands will result in a major food penalty for you and your guests.

Remember to use clean platters to serve and restock food, and keep surfaces such as countertops clean. And don’t overlook cutting boards!

If you’re not sure how to tell when 20 seconds have passed, you can do what preschoolers do and sing the entire "A-B-C" song or “Happy Birthday.”

Make sure your guests use serving utensils to discourage them from eating directly from the bowls with dips and salsa. Keep a penalty flag handy to throw at double-dippers (you know, the ones who dip, take a bite, then dip again into the shared bowl).

Pass interference

(AP Photo)

2. Pass interference

Keep raw meats separate from other foods, the same way you would do normally. To avoid a penalty here, make sure raw meats don’t come in contact with other foods on the buffet.

Never place cooked food back on the same plate that previously held raw food unless you’ve first washed the plate in hot, soapy water.

If you think there may be too many cooks in the kitchen to keep food separated, or too many distractions, consider using disposable items, such as plastic reclosable bags or foil baking pans.

Referee personal foul

(Photo: iStock)

3. Personal foul

Don’t cause a personal foul that’s risky to the health of your guests.

You should always use a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked to the right temperature.

Color and texture are not indicators of doneness. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees Farenheit and poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Farenheit. The USDA has a chart on its website showing safe minimum internal temperatures for different foods.

Grocery stores and food specialty stores sell food thermometers, but be aware that these are not the same as oven thermometers that only tell you whether the oven has heated up to the correct cooking temperature.

Referee holding call

(Photo: iStock)

4. Holding

You can avoid this penalty by keeping hot food hot and cold food cold.

Don’t keep food on your buffet table for more than two hours. Hot foods need a hot source (chafing dishes, warming trays or slow cookers for example) to keep them out of the “danger zone.” Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Farenheit, warns the USDA.

The same rule applies for cold foods. They should be nestled in ice to remain safe for guests.

If there’s a delay of game and you didn’t practice effective clock management, with your buffet, don’t eat or serve the food — send it to the sidelines. Heed the old saying, “When in doubt, throw it out!” Then replenish with fresh servings or substitute a snack that doesn’t need to be heated or cooled.

If you do have leftovers, divide them into smaller portions or pieces, place them in shallow containers, mark the date, and refrigerate. But don’t wait too long to enjoy your leftovers. Refrigerate them for three to four days at most. Freeze them if you won’t be eating the leftovers sooner.

If you’re not sure how long to keep foods, check out the storage times for refrigerator and freezer chart on the federal government’s food safety website.

Dog with football

(Photo: iStock)

5. Ineligible players

Even though you might be tempted, be sure to keep the food and drink for people, not pets, and remind your guests to do the same.

Many of your game-day favorites can cause major health problems for your pets, explains the Morris Animal Inn blog. Here are a few examples:

  • Alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin and even small amounts can cause gastric distress, difficulty breathing, coma or death in pets.
  • Chips and dip. Most dips contain onions and garlic, which destroy your pet’s red blood cells and can result in anemia. Salty foods, such as potato chips, can cause excessive thirst, urination and sodium poisoning.
  • Chocolate. Chocolate contains dairy products that can upset your pet’s digestive tract as well as a chemical called theobromine, which can be fatal to pets.

And don’t forget to keep your trash can secured so your dog or cat can’t get at the food waste.

Unsportsmanlike conduct

(AP Photo)

6. Unsportsmanlike conduct

In addition to being one of the biggest food days of the year, Super Bowl Sunday is also one of the biggest drinking days. (Just think of all those beer ads!)

If you’re planning to drink, don’t drive. If you’re planning to drive, don’t drink. Have a designated driver or use a taxi or ride-sharing service. You can also download the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) SaferRide mobile app, available for Android and Apple devices.

You may think that going to a neighborhood party means you won’t be driving while impaired. But walking impaired can also be dangerous. If you’ve been drinking consider having a sober friend walk you home.

When you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, be aware of how much alcohol your guests are consuming, and be sure that none of them are underage. You may need to take a guest’s keys away and arrange a sober ride or offer a bed for the night.

Designated driver

(Photo: iStock)

7. Most valuable player: The designated driver

If you’re the designated driver, you can earn some recognition for your status and actions in keeping others safe.

Your passengers can tweet your name to NHTSA (@NHTSAgov) for the Designated Driver Wall of Fame using the hashtag #DontDriveDrunk. is one example of a company that’s planning to reward those who plan ahead for and enjoy Super Bowl 50 responsibly through its “Big Game Giveaway.”

Anytime a beer commercial airs on Sunday, Feb. 7 between 6 p.m. Eastern and 11:59 p.m. Eastern, viewers are encouraged to tweet their designated driver’s name with the hashtag #CompareDD. One lucky tweeter and his or her designated driver will be selected at random to win a year of free car insurance.

People who are staying safe without a designated driver, such as getting a taxi, Uber or using public transportation are also encouraged to enter by tweeting their method of getting home safely with the hashtag #CompareDD.

However you plan to celebrate Super Bowl 50, you’ll be sure to have a penalty-free game by following our tips.

Related: Hosting a Super Bowl 50 party? Watch out for these 5 risks

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