How to keep your dip, wings and guac from poisoning your Super Bowl party guests

David J. Neal, Miami Herald on

Published in Entertaining

No matter whether you’re at a Super Bowl party as host, NFL fan, commercials fan or person in a relationship with any of the above, you don’t want your post-game to involve getting sick from food or alcohol poisoning.

That means knowing not only that veterans pace themselves with alcohol, but knowing how to avoid food-borne illnesses. Here are a few suggestions from the USDA on how to do that.

As with Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, you can go a long way with fundamentals: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

—“Clean” as in proper hand-washing — hot water, soap, 20 seconds — before handling any food. This applies to switching from one type of food to another, after taking the trash out, or basically anytime you do something else and start fooling with the food again.

Kitchen food service hand gloves work, but should also be preceded by hand-washing (state inspectors ding restaurants and supermarkets when they see employees skipping the hand-washing before gloves).

Clean also means washing counters and all food contact areas. We’d throw in keeping food covered in some way, thus shielding it from coughing, sneezing, spittle-shooting eaters.

— “Separate” means putting raw poultry (chicken, turkey) in a different place in the refrigerator or freezer than ready-to-eat food.

— “Cook” seems obvious, but do you know how thoroughly? The center should be at least 165 degrees. Spring for a food thermometer. The kidneys you save may be your own.


— “Chill” is the step that so often gets overlooked or violated. Anything perishable — deli sandwiches, especially with cheese or mayonnaise, guacamole, salsa, even pizza — needs to be kept properly cooled before it turns into a bacteria boat.

“The danger zone is 40 to 140 degrees [Fahrenheit],” said Janice Lopez-Munoz of the USDA’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education. “That’s when bacteria multiply fastest.”

Use the oven or stove to reheat food up to 165 degrees. Slow cookers, Lopez-Munoz said, can be used to keep warm food at a safe temperature, but not reheat food back to a safe temperature.

For foods that need to be kept under 40 degrees, Lopez-Munoz suggested putting them out on a bed of ice once you take them out of the refrigerator or freezer.

Another option is to put a little of the food out, keep the rest in an oven on low or a refrigerator, then replace or rotate as necessary. This approach also allows you to work it in shifts.

The game will last around four hours, from kickoff to confetti. Don’t leave anything out that long. The USDA recommends a two-hour rule.

Anyone with questions can call the USDA’s Meat & Poultry Hotline, 888-674-6854 (888-MPHotline). The hotline is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish).