Be Food Safe at Your Tailgate

Football season is in full swing and many of us are headed off to a tailgate party before the game or a big viewing party at a friend’s home. While we typically plan ahead to make sure we have enough food, do we always plan to keep the risk of foodborne illness at a minimum? The term “tailgate party” means serving food or drink out of the tailgate of a truck or car. Serving food outdoors, in an uncontrolled environment is always a bit risky. To be food safe at your next tailgate:tailgate

  • Start with clean hands and a clean surface. If you can’t promise your tailgate will be clean, try a tablecloth as your base. Bring hand sanitizer or wipes for all who attend.
  • Pack foods for transportation to avoid cross-contamination. Store raw meats, cooked foods, or those that will be served raw (like veggie sticks) in separate coolers if at all possible.
  • Pack coolers with plenty of ice and frozen water bottles. If you tailgate frequently it may be worthwhile to purchase a mini refrigerator designed for camping or tailgates (you will save all that ice money anyway). At the tailgate keep coolers in the shade and out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
  • Keep already cooked hot foods, hot. To be safe these foods need to maintain a temperature of 140⁰F for several hours. Some pots come with insulated carriers designed for transport and preheating any container by putting boiling water in it before the food is also a good practice. You may also be able to plug one or two warming units into outlets in some newer vehicles.
  • If you marinate your meat and plan to grill at the tailgate, do not reuse the marinade from raw meat on cooked food. Never partially cook meat either – once cooking starts it must be continued until the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Don’t forget your meat thermometer and proper grilling utensils to prevent burns and potential food poisoning. Poultry must reach 165⁰F, ground meats 160⁰F, and beef or pork 145⁰F.
  • Tailgate foods may not be able to be used as left-overs. As quickly bringing them back down below 40⁰F and maintaining that temperature may be difficult.
  • Pack a large plastic tote to easily put dirty food containers in when you are ready to head off to the game. When you reach home hours later the tote is easy to carry in your home for quick cleanup.

Following these tips will provide you with a tailgate party win, not a food borne illness loss.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County.



About lisabarlage

Lisa is an Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County. Her specialization is health and wellness. She enjoys working with diabetic groups, workplaces, youth wellness programs, and extending community programs by working with other agencies. She is married and has a daughter who is a Buckeye. In her free time she enjoys attending her local farmers market, Ohio State Buckeye sports, and reading.
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