Tailgate food safety – something both teams can agree on

tailgatefoodThe heat of summer is dwindling, the leaves are turning and in stadiums across the U.S., footballs are flying.

It’s football season and with that comes the beloved tradition known as tailgating, a time to gather, eat good food and take part in some good ol’ fashioned rivalry.

To keep your tailgate a touchdown, check out these tips below from FoodSafety.gov and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


  • Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat items in your shopping cart and in bags. This helps prevent cross-contamination.
  • Refrigerate meat and poultry as soon as you get home (a safe temperature for the fridge is 40°F).
  • Defrost meat in the fridge, not on the counter (i.e. at room temperature).


  • As always, keep raw items separate from ready-to-eat foods. This means using different plates and utensils for raw vs. cooked items and thoroughly washing utensils between uses.
  • Marinades can take bland fare and make it better. However, remember to always marinate in the fridge, not on the counter or outside (marinating at room temperature keeps meat at the perfect temperature for bacteria to grow).
  • With that being said, once raw meat or poultry has been added to the marinade, do not use it on ready-to-eat foods. If you plan to use marinade on other items, reserve some of the marinade before adding meat.
  • When transporting food (and at a tailgate) ensure you’ve got enough ice in the cooler to keep food at 40°F or lower.


It’s important to ensure meat reaches a safe internal temperature (color isn’t a good indicator of safety so use a meat thermometers). Once you start grilling, finish. Don’t partially cook food on the grill and finish later.

  • Poultry: 165°F
  • Pork: 145°F
  • Beef, lamb or veal (steaks, chops): 160°F
  • Fish: 145°F
  • Ground meat: 160°F
  • Ground poultry: 165°F

Need to keep cooked items warm (safe at 140°F) until it’s time to eat? Set them next to the grill rack or put them in an oven set at 200°F.


  • Use clean platters, plates and utensils. This prevents cross-contamination with bacteria that could have been on raw items.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • If it’s hotter than 90°F out, food shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour. If it is, it’s best to chuck it. For temperatures cooler than 90°F, food shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours.

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