4 Tips for Avoiding a Food-Poisoning Party Foul on Game Day

Last Update: August 11, 2021

When the Panthers and Broncos square off Sunday in Santa Clara, upward of 100 million Americans will gather with friends and family to watch the big game.

Where there are football parties, there will be food, and, in some cases, food poisoning. All those greasy sliders, microwaveable appetizers, and cheesy dips can be breeding grounds for bacteria when they’re left out for hours at room temperature.

Luckily, the United States Department of Agriculture is here to help you avoid party fouling with this list of pointers to help keep yourself and your guests safe.

1. Switch out perishable foods at halftime.

With snacks like dips and raw veggies, rotate in a fresh supply periodically. The key here is to avoid keeping anything unrefrigerated for longer than two hours.

2. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

Avoid the “Danger Zone”—temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F—in which bacteria multiply rapidly. Coolers and crock pots are your friends.

3. Consult a food thermometer.

Ensure all meat and poultry are cooked to a safe internal temperature (145 degrees Fahrenheit for raw beef, pork, lamb and veal, with a three-minute rest time; 160 degrees Fahrenheit for raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal; and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for all cuts of poultry).

4. Wash your hands often.

A no-brainer, yes, but also an important reminder: wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before touching food, after handling any raw meat or poultry and trash, and after you finish cooking.

Serving safe food at your Game Day gathering is a given. But what about sustainable and cleandare we say nutritious—snacks? It’s possible! Start with four or five great recipes—like these vegetarian “wings”  or this roasted red pepper dip—then stock up on fresh, organic and non-GMO ingredients.

For booze, serve local wines and beers, and go with the healthier options. Try your hand at crafting some fresh and fruity cocktails as well.

Finally, watch your portion sizes. It’s easy to eat past the point of feeling full merely because the food is there, so put out a modest amount of food to start. Using smaller plates will also encourage portion control, which the latest research shows can be key to a healthier lifestyle.

Oh, and make sure you pop back in here after the game and let us know what you did to make sure your spread was safe, clean, and sustainable!

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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Steve Holt

Steve Holt's stories about food, nutrition and food politics are found at Civil Eats,, Boston Magazine, and elsewhere. He's been featured in the Best Food Writing anthology. Follow his tweets and Instagrams @thebostonwriter.

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