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Tackle tailgates with food safety

Thursday, August 30, 2018

food at a football tailgate

Football season is here, and many fans are holding tailgates to cheer on their favorite teams. Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center wants to keep your food safe and recommends food safety tips for those participating in tailgating activities.

“Roughly one out of six people get sick from foodborne illness,” said Ravi Jadeja, FAPC food safety specialist. “Following simple food safety procedures and reducing foodborne illness can keep many people from getting sick. With tailgating season upon us, it is important to remember proper food handling and cooking techniques so your tailgate does not sideline your guests.”

Follow these tailgating food safety tips to ensure you have a fun and safe football season.

Storing Perishable Foods

  • Pack cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Raw meats, pre-made dishes and leftovers need to go in the cooler.
  • Store meats 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.

Preparing the Grill

  • Pre-heat gas or electric grills for 10-15 minutes before cooking.
  • Pre-heat charcoals for 20-30 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 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.
  • If re-heating 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.
  • Place leftovers in shallow containers to prevent bacteria growth.

For more information about food safety, text FAPC to 80802 to download the free FAPC Connect app or visit

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop, and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

Story by Mandy Gross

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