Go on the Offensive Against Foodborne Illness


Football season is in full swing, and you know what that means - game day tailgating! Photo courtesy UT Athletics.

Football season is in full swing, and you know what that means—game day tailgating! University of Tennessee Extension offers these tips to help make your pre- and post-game gatherings safe from food poisoning.

Kick-off with the right supplies. Pack your bags with a food thermometer, disposable plates, disposable utensils, disposable cups, paper towels, liquid soap, sanitizer or moist towelettes, disposable resealable containers, resealable bags, bottled water, ice, food and drinks.

Allow enough time to properly defrost meat in the refrigerator or on ice. Plan ahead and put your frozen meat in the refrigerator one or two days before the big game. Tightly seal raw or thawed meat in plastic wrap to prevent juices from contaminating other foods. Better yet, pack your raw meat in a separate cooler.

Marinate meat in a cooler or refrigerator. Discard any remaining marinade used with raw meat. If you want to flavor your cooked food, reserve a little marinade that is not used with raw meat and keep it chilled in a cooler.

Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or icepacks to keep temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Keep a refrigerator thermometer inside the cooler at all times to monitor the temperature. Instead of a large container, consider using two smaller containers for food. One can be served before the game and one after.

Keep raw meat juices from coming into contact with cooked meat or other foods. Pack two sets of cooking utensils, one for raw foods and another for cooked foods. Color coding utensils is a good idea if two sets become confusing.

Use a food thermometer to check for safe minimum temperatures of food. It is the only reliable way to ensure foods are safe to eat. You can’t rely on time, color or texture. Tailgating favorites like hamburgers should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Throw away perishable tailgate items that have been out of the cooler for two hours or more before going to the game. Foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours. In hot weather (90 degrees Fahrenheit or above) this time is reduced to one hour.

After the game, serve and eat only non-perishable foods unless foods packed in the cooler remain stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

It’s game on! Always be on the “offense” against foodborne illness. 

For additional information about how to make your tailgate a food safety success, contact your county’s UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website: ag.tennessee.edu/fcs

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu​.



Janie Burney, UT Extension, 865-974-7402, jburney@utk.edu​