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Mitzi Parker: It’s tailgating time!

Time to pull out your game day gear and start planning your snacks and tailgating goodies. You only have one week left to prepare for SEC opening weekend. This year every SEC team, expect for Mississippi State, plays at home or on a neutral field during opening weekend … which means a lot of fans will be traveling and tailgating.
Let’s talk about food safety.
If you plan on preparing foods at home to transport to the tailgate party, it is important to maintain certain temperatures while traveling to the game to keep bacteria from multiplying. Refrigerated ready to eat foods such as potato salad, coleslaw and pasta salad should be kept in a cooler with ice packs. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the cooler stays 40 degrees  F. or below. If you are transporting raw meat to be cooked at the party, make sure it is completely sealed and separated from all other foods. Juices from the raw meat can contaminate other foods and cause illness.
When cooking meat, always use a food thermometer to check for doneness. Hamburgers and sausage should be cooked to 160 degrees F.; poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. throughout the product. Whole poultry is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. as measured with a food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, poultry may be cooked to higher temperatures such as 180 degrees F. When reheating previously cooked foods, heat to 165 degrees F.
Food that has been left out for over two hours should be discarded. When foods are left in the temperature danger zone (40 degrees F. to 140 degrees F.) for long periods of time, bacteria use the opportunity to multiply and spread. That is why it is important to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
Here are a few food safety reminders when tailgating.
• Wash hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds often, especially before and after handling raw meats.
• Carry extra utensils for single use in order to not cross-contaminate.
• Keep raw foods away from other cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
• Use a food thermometer to check if meat is thoroughly cooked.
Keep cold foods cold, 40 degrees F. or below; hot foods hot, 140 degrees F. or above.
• Keep a refrigerator thermometer in coolers.
• Never leave foods out for more than two hours, one hour if temperature is 90 degrees F. or above.

Remember to follow food safety guidelines so that your tailgating party is remembered for good fellowship and football … not for a foodborne illness! All the articles I’ve read predict an opening game victory for every SEC team so the South should have a good weekend. Go Dawgs!

Mitzi Parker is Sumter County Extention agent/Consumer and Family Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at 229=924-4476.