Blakeslee is an avid football fan and experienced tailgater, but on any given game day, she may see fans who risk foodborne illness unnecessarily.
"Washing your hands before and after handling food is critical," she said. "Water may not be readily available, but tailgaters can either bring a jug of water, soap and towels or, brush off surface dirt and use pre-packaged towelettes or a hand sanitizer.
To avoid cross contamination, Blakeslee suggests using separate coolers or ice chests for beverages, ready-to-eat foods, and raw foods that will be cooked.
"On a hot day, the temperature inside a cooler typically rises each time a cooler is opened," she said. Since beverage coolers are usually opened most frequently, separating the beverages helps maintain the quality of other party foods.
Blakeslee recommends filling a cooler or ice chest so that it is half full of ice.
"Block ice will melt more slowly than cubes, and cubes will melt more slowly than crushed ice," she said. Freezing water bottles is an option, but Blakeslee cautioned tailgaters to not fill the bottles completely, as the water will expand during the freezing process.
One advantage to freezing water in a bottle is that, when thawed, the water is chilled and ready to drink.
Tailgaters are opting for portable gas grills and appliances that plug into car batteries or generators, but Blakeslee said that it is still critical to test doneness of cooked foods with a food thermometer. Not all ground beef browns at the time or temperature.
That means if a hamburger is brown, it still may not have reached a safe-to-eat temperature of 160 degrees F. United States Department of Agriculture recommendations for cooking all poultry products, such as chicken breasts, thighs or wings, were adjusted earlier this year to 165 degrees F.
If planning to serve an egg casserole before an early game, check the cooked temperature (160 degrees F.), Blakeslee said.
She does not recommend preparing an omelet in a bag, a recipe that's been shared on the Internet recently. The eggs may not cook completely, and re-sealable plastic bags, which are not intended for such cooking purposes, may melt.
Foods with temperatures from 40 to 140 degrees F. can be hazardous, the food scientist said. She recommends heating hot dogs to steaming.
Food thermometers are easy to use and can be purchased for $10 or less. (More information on choosing and using a food thermometer is available on K-State Research and Extension's Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety.)
Given Blakeslee's enthusiasm for football and tailgating, she offered these additional food safety and time-saving tips:
More information on food, food safety, nutrition and health is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and website: www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety.
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