Food Safety for Super Bowl Parties

Pam Schmutz
Home & Garden Information Center

Have you ever wondered if the chicken wings, pizza or dips are safe to eat after sitting out for hours during the game? What about double dipping—is that really a problem? Clemson University’s Paul Dawson, who has researched the amount of bacteria that ends up in dip after double dipping, has a word of advice—“Don’t do it!” There is significant transfer of bacteria from the mouth to the dip by double dipping. Anytime you are hosting a party, some challenges to consider include keeping the refrigerator from becoming overcrowded, storing food that was prepared in advance, and keeping foods at proper temperatures once they are set out on the table. Follow these food safety tips to keep your guests healthy as well as happy.

  • To keep the chicken wings, pizza and dips safe you will need to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This applies to all perishable foods, including some you might think would not be a problem, like cut-up fresh fruits and vegetables. Check to make sure you have the needed equipment, or plan to borrow or rent what you will need. Set cold foods out on ice and hot foods over a heat source to keep them out of the temperature “danger zone.” Keep cold foods at 40 °F or below, and hot foods above 140 °F. Never let these foods stand at room temperature for more than two hours, including preparation, storage and serving time.
  • At parties that will last several hours, serve only what is needed and replace often so foods are kept at proper temperatures. Don’t add fresh foods to plates that have been sitting out. Prepare a number of smaller serving dishes ahead of time that can be stored in the refrigerator and then be brought directly to the table.
  • Check to see if you have enough dishes and utensils for eating, or use disposable ones. If you run out of clean dishes, you may end up using ones that are quickly and improperly ashed.
  • Figure out how much refrigerator space you’ll need to store foods. When your refrigerator is overcrowded, the temperature may rise enough for bacteria to grow to dangerous levels. If you will have a lot of food in the refrigerator, you may need to turn the temperature setting down to keep it at 40 °F or below.
  • Refrigerating food while it is still warm does not make it spoil, but storing too much warm food at a time may raise the temperature in the refrigerator above 40 °F. Never put deep containers of hot food in the refrigerator. To speed cooling, put the container into a clean sink of ice water for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put hot food in shallow containers so it will chill more quickly in the refrigerator.
  • Do not hold prepared foods in the refrigerator more than a day or two. If you prepare them earlier, plan to freeze them.
  • Make sure you have clean work surfaces and clean utensils to prepare food. After handling raw meats or poultry, wash your hands well. Also, make sure that all those who help prepare the food have clean hands washed with soap and hot water.
  • Never place other foods on a surface where you have had raw meat or poultry until you have thoroughly cleaned it. It is good to have two cutting boards — one for use with raw meat and poultry only, the other for sandwiches, salads and cooked foods. This prevents the spread of bacteria.
  • When you taste food, use a tasting spoon only once then wash it before you use it again.
  • Provide a spoon with your dip to encourage guests to put the dip on their plates for dipping.

For more ideas on keeping food safe when serving a large group, see HGIC 3540, Preparing Food for a Crowd, HGIC 3500, Basics of Safe Food Handling and HGIC 3606, Leftovers.

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