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STILLWATER — The college football season is back, and everyone enjoys getting together for tailgating, but you won’t want to pass on these food safety tips. Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center recommends closely following these guidelines when participating in tailgating activities.

Whether you cook alongside your car in a stadium parking lot or come with prepared food, this popular pastime requires careful planning. Since tailgating is an outdoor event with large groups of people, this tradition can become threatening if appropriate food-safety guidelines and practices are not a priority.

“Following simple, safe food-handling procedures can keep many people from getting sick,” said Ravi Jadeja, FAPC food safety specialist. “With tailgating season upon us, it is important to remember proper food-handling and cooking techniques so your tailgate does not sideline your guests.

Cooking and storing foods properly at a tailgate is crucial to avoid potentially getting sick from harmful bacteria. Since bacteria on food cannot be seen by the human eye, preparing, cooking and storing foods properly during a tailgate is vital.

Although food safety is not the most fun part of game day, it could make or break the experience. Follow these tailgating food safety tips to ensure you are on the defense of hard-hitting food borne illnesses and have a fun and safe football season.

Storing Perishable Foods

• Pack cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.

• Pre-made dishes, raw meats and leftovers need to go in the cooler.

• Store meat near the bottom of the cooler.

• Separate and securely wrap all cooler items.

Food Preparation

• Use separate plates and cutting boards for raw and cooked proteins.

• Prevent cross-contamination by using separate utensils for each item.

• Use color-coded knives to help keep you organized.

• Wash utensils between uses.

• Use a food thermometer.

Preparing the Grill

• Pre-heat gas or electric grills for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

• Pre-heat charcoal for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking.

• Pre-heating allows food to cook evenly.

• Never partially grill foods and then finish later.

Grilling Safety

• A food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure food is at the proper temperature and safe to eat.

• Hamburgers and brats need to be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Steaks and chops need to be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit with 15 minutes resting.

• If reheating an item, such as pre-cooked hot dogs, cook to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Chicken breasts need to be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Safety During and After Tailgating

• Keep hot foods hot, at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Keep cold foods cold, at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Throw away or put perishable foods in the cooler before heading to the game.

Foods should not be left out for more than 1 hour if it is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

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