Referee a Food-Safe Super Bowl Party

How to prevent foodborne illness for your Super Bowl bash

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

As the Steelers and the Packers get ready to go helmet-to-helmet for the Big Game, here are a few calls that will keep you and your friends safe from foodborne illness.

Pathogens that cause foodborne illness can be transmitted directly from an infected source to food. The MVPs (most vile players) include: campylobacter (a bacterial pathogen that causes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps); salmonella (bacterium widespread in the intestines of birds, reptiles and mammals); E. Coli (a bacterial pathogen that has a reservoir in cattle and other similar animals); and calicivirus (believed to be spread from one infected person to another).

Symptoms of foodborne illness or food poisoning include: severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and fever, depending on the cause of contamination.

The Food Safety Bill that was recently signed into law by President Obama marks the first significant piece of consumer-protection legislation regarding food products in more than 70 years. Among other provisions, the bill gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more power to recall tainted products. A joint meeting between the FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture also addressed the need to increase the speed and accuracy of traceback investigations and better respond to outbreaks by rapidly identifying contamination sources.

While the FDA works to hold foodborne-illness outbreaks at bay, there are defense tactics you can call at home to keep your bowl party foul free.

Foodborne illnesses account for about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data about how many of these unfortunate incidents stem from bowl parties isn't available, but here are some ways to make your bash free of poison penalties and foodborne flags.

Separate Players that Don't Get Along

Keeping your friends and family safe begins at the supermarket. Be sure to separate raw produce (such as tasty carrot sticks, high in vitamin A-producing carotene, and celery stalks, a great source for vitamin C) from raw meats, like delicious beef tips and chicken-breast meat (both of which are excellent sources of protein). Raw meat contain bacteria-laden juices that can contaminate other food.

Once home, be sure to use separate cutting boards for uncooked foods and ready-to-eat goodies. If you're down to one cutting board, cut the veggies first, and be sure to wash the cutting board thoroughly with warm, soapy water between uses.

Time Outs

Call a time out to check the temperature of any meats you might be cooking. Beef should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground beef should be cooked thoroughly to 160 degrees; and any poultry should be seared to an even toastier 165 degrees.

Illegal Use of Hands

Be sure to wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds prior to, and after, handling food. It's especially important to avoid personal fouls by washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.

So stick to these rules and you'll be sure to keep your players out of the worst bowl game there is, the toilet bowl.

Review Date: 
January 30, 2011