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Tailgate safely for post-game pleasure
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The joys of winning the big game and celebrating with an impressive picnic meal can fade quickly if a foodborne illness is part of the post-game aftermath.
The physical effects of a foodborne illness can hit quickly or days after consuming food that has not been handled properly. Often, the culprit cannot be seen, smelled or tasted when the meal is being enjoyed. Some of the more at-risk foods include meats, milk products and eggs, or foods that contain those items.
Melissa Mixon, human nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said picnics present increased food safety challenges because of the lack of convenient chilling, heating and washing opportunities, and because of the time factor from preparing to serving to consuming the foods.
"Foodborne illness is a possibility whenever the perishable food's temperature is between 40 and 140 degrees for more than two hours. During the hottest days, some foods should not be left out for more than one hour," Mixon said. "Two ice chests are good ideas when picnics will last an extended period of time. Foods never chill down as well after they have been out of an ice chest."
Cross contamination of raw meat and cooked or fresh foods is a common cause of foodborne illness. Thoroughly wash utensils and hands that come in contact with uncooked meat to prevent bacteria from transferring to other foods.
"Keeping foods hot can be a real challenge. Crock pots can help keep hot foods hot, but should not be used to reheat foods," Mixon said. "Watch the clock and don't hesitate to throw foods out. It's really much better than making yourself or friends sick."
People may mistakenly think they've never gotten sick before from leaving food at unsafe temperatures too long. Because symptoms of foodborne illnesses can take four hours to 50 days to surface, many people may not realize their picnic food caused their sickness.
Finally, safe handling of food includes making sure hands are as clean as possible.
"Be sure to have hand sanitizers if other clean water sources are not available," Mixon said.