Home & Garden Information Center
September is here and with it comes the fall sports craze! South Carolina will be buzzing with football games, cross country races, soccer games, tennis matches and many more sporting events. The one thing all of these sports have in common is food. Sports fans love to tailgate and picnic and athletes need extra nutrition during matches and games. Tailgating before college games draws thousands of people in the fall but high school, recreation department and little league sports commonly include tailgates, team dinners, picnics and snacks as part of their events.
Preparing and serving foods for a crowd requires careful attention and planning. Keeping foods from becoming contaminated with foodborne pathogens can be challenging in an outdoor setting especially in the very warm temperatures of September. A few conditions that can be especially problematic when serving food outdoors are:
Cross contamination – It can be tricky to keep raw meats separated from other foods when working outside of the normal kitchen environment. Uncooked meat, poultry and seafood can contain unsafe bacteria. Cooking them to the correct internal temperature will kill the bacteria but if bacteria are transferred to other foods before cooking those foods can become contaminated with the unsafe bacteria. For example, if a meat product that has bacteria on it shares a cutting board with lettuce then the lettuce may become contaminated with the bacteria. Because the lettuce will not be cooked there is no opportunity for the bacteria to be eliminated. In this case, anyone eating the lettuce will be susceptible to foodborne illness.
Temperature control – Keeping foods from becoming contaminated with foodborne pathogens requires that hot foods be kept hot and cold foods must be kept cold. The danger zone for food temperatures is 70 °F - 140 °F . In this temperature range bacteria, that are present all around us, can quickly multiply to levels that can cause sickness. In September, high temperatures in most parts of South Carolina rise to 80 °F and above so keeping foods at the appropriate temperature requires extra planning.
Unclean work surfaces & utensils – Bacteria are present everywhere so surfaces and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned. Hands should be washed before handling food. Hand washing facilities may not be convenient but anyone handling food for a crowd should thoroughly wash their hands before handling food.
Ultimately, planning, preparing and serving food to a crowd should be taken seriously. No one wants to be responsible for getting a group of people sick. But “never fear”, the following guidelines from The Home & Garden Information Center, Fact Sheet HGIC 3602, Safe Picnics will give you confidence to be sure that the food you are serving will be safe.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.