Game Day Food Safety

Game Day Food Safety

What You Need to Know

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like vegetables when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
  • Make sure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Keep hot foods hot (140°F or warmer) and cold foods cold (40°F or colder).
  • Throw out perishable food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours (more than 1 hour if it has been exposed to temperatures above 90°F).

Tackling a game day spread? Play by these rules and keep the runs on the field. Make sure your game day favorites are memorable for all the right reasons. Follow these four tips to avoid food poisoning:

1. Keep it Clean

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food and before eating. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
  • Wash your cutting boardsexternal icon, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water—even if you do not plan to eat the peel—so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut.

2. Avoid Mix-ups

  • Separateexternal icon raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
    • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs.
  • Offer guests individual serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating dips and salsa directly from the bowls.

3. Cook it Well

Cooking food to the right temperature kills harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to check meat, egg, and microwaved dishes on your menu.

  • Make sure chicken wings (and other poultry) reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Ground beef and egg dishes should reach at least 160°F. Check the safe internal temperatureexternal icon for other foods.
  • Follow recommended standing or rest timesexternal icon after cooking some foods like steaks or roasts.
    • Areas of the food that are not completely cooked (cold spots) can provide a hiding place for germs.
    • Always follow directions for the standing time—the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.
  • Follow cooking directions on the package when cooking frozen food in the microwaveexternal icon.
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4. Keep it Safe

Serve food at the right temperature:

  • Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot.
  • Keep cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice.
  • Getting takeout or delivery? Make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

If you prepare food in advance or have leftovers, store and reheat them the right way:

  • Divide cooked food into smaller portions or pieces and put in shallow containersexternal icon to cool. This encourages rapid, even cooling.
    • Be sure to divide large pots of food (for example, soups and stews) and large cuts of meats (for example, roasts and whole chickens).
  • Put cooked food and leftovers in a refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible—always within 2 hours of preparing, or 1 hour if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F (like a hot car or tailgate party).
    • It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
    • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and your freezer at 0°F or below.
  • Refrigerateexternal icon cooked food and leftovers for 3 to 4 days at most. Freeze the food if you won’t be eating it soon.
  • Reheat food to at least 165°F before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.
A Recipe for Fresh Salsa—Remember to Refrigerate!
Serving salsa on game day? Try this recipe for fresh salsa with garlic and lime juice. Remember to refrigerate any homemade salsa until you serve it. Nest the bowl in ice on the serving table or make sure you follow the 2-hour ruleexternal icon.

  • 18 fresh Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium jalapeño pepper, stem removed
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice


  1. Wash your hands, and clean the cutting board and prep area with soap and hot water.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro under running water and dry with a clean paper towel.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces.
  4. Finely dice the onion, jalapeño pepper, and garlic.
  5. Chop the cilantro leaves into small pieces.
  6. Combine tomatoes, pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, garlic, and lime juice in a bowl and refrigerate until serving time.
  7. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 or 2.5 cups.