Everything’s super around the Super Bowl – the football, the entertainment, the hype and, of course, the parties. Another thing that’s big about the Super Bowl, but much less welcome, is the potential for crashing the party with a food-related illness.
More than 48 million people are affected by a food-borne illness in the United States every year. Large parties around the holidays and the Super Bowl, such as those we throw ourselves and those we attend, increase the potential for food contamination. Of those 48 million, an estimated 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 lose their lives due to a food-related illness. Populations at greatest risk for serious, life-threatening illness are the very young, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Why do large get-togethers increase the risk for an illness? It’s because we are serving large quantities of food, not paying attention to food temperatures and having many people eat off the same plate or from the same container. All of these factors increase the risk of bacteria – and of the bacteria multiplying rapidly. Individually, each of these food fouls creates a risk. Combine them, and the risk climbs that you or another guest will become ill.
Some illnesses related to food include salmonella, E. coli, shigella, hepatitis A, listeria and norovirus. Also be aware of vibrio, which is often associated with partially cooked shrimp or raw oysters, depending on the strain. Symptoms associated with food-borne illnesses include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides a chart of common food-borne illnesses and their incubation periods, signs and symptoms, duration and food sources.
Play it safe
Score big at your party by keeping germs out of the food. Keep the following tips in your playbook:
- Don’t leave food in a hot car.
- Keep your kitchen clean, especially cutting boards, sponges and knives.
- Make sure your refrigerator is 40 degrees and your freezer is zero.
- Cook red meat to 160 degrees F and poultry to 180 degrees F.
- Never leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than TWO HOURS.
- Keep cold party foods on ice.
- Heat leftovers to 165 degrees and keep them above 140 F.
- Put hot foods into small units for rapid cooling.
- If it looks strange or smells strange, throw it out.
- Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation.
The FDA operates a Food Information Line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT Friday to Wednesday and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CT Thursdays and federal holidays. You can also send your questions to the Food Information Line.
The Louisiana Department of Health also provides food safety information at.