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We all look forward to tailgate season. As soon as football returns we get ready to camp out in a parking lot for a day, have a few beverages and grill some delicious treats.

It’s a scene that presents a few challenges. Without your normal kitchen set up, you have to be careful when preparing foods. Are you preparing chicken outside in the sun? After a few toddies, are you making sure everything is cooked all the way through? Food preparation, especially the dangers of undercooked foods, is something you should pay special attention to this fall. Whether your team wins or loses, with a little help from FastMed you can keep your family and friends safe all season long.

Handle meat properly

Make sure you are handling meat properly. You want to pack all meat in a cooler with ample ice so everything stays fresh until you are ready to cook. Then you want to be careful where you set the meat before and after you cook it.

If you are preparing food on a tabletop, clean it well before using it and clean it anytime meat comes in contact with the surface. If you use a plate to hold uncooked food, do not put cooked food back on the same plate. E. coli can spread from uncooked or undercooked food. The bacteria can also linger on a hard surface for a very long time. Some studies show E. coli may live as long as 100 days on a surface. This means that if you do not clean your tailgate table and utensils properly when game day is over, dangerous bacteria may still be there the next time you use the supplies.

Cook food to the proper temperature

Be sure to cook meat to the proper temperature. If you are worried about your ability to judge the doneness of a burger or chicken breast by looking at it, cut it open. People worry about cutting meat on the grill because they think it will spill the juices, but losing some flavor is better than getting sick.

You can also use a thermometer to check the temperature of meat. Recommended cook temperatures for various tailgate staples are listed below:

  • Chicken wings: 160 to 165 degrees F
  • Ground beef patties: 160 to 165 degrees F
  • Pork ribs: 180 to 200 degrees F
  • Pre-cooked or raw sausage: 140 or 160 degrees F

Try to make using a thermometer a habit, whether you are at a tailgate or in your home kitchen. Soon it will become second nature. A few seconds to check the temperature could prevent very serious illnesses in the long run.

Also, at your tailgate, leave yourself plenty of time to cook your food properly. It’s not uncommon to fire up the grill and put on some chicken, only to hear the crowd roar in the distance and feel the need to hustle up, eat and get on in to the game. You always want plenty of time to prepare your tailgate meal, so you don’t serve any undercooked food. Arrive early and heat up the grill so you’re ready to go from the start.

So what’s the big deal?

A little pink in a chicken wing never hurt anyone, you say? Nothing another beer can’t cure? Well, the truth is, any number of bacteria may be carried in meat.

We mentioned E. coli, which can cause extreme stomach troubles, but you may also be exposed to Salmonella. Salmonella leads to more than 1 million illnesses each year and a significant number of deaths. Trust us, you do not want to deal with E. coli or Salmonella infections. Not to mention Listeria, noroviruses and Hepatitis A, all of which can also be transmitted through food if it is not heated enough to kill the offending bacteria.

FastMed is here if you eat a bad wing

The bottom line is: Take your food prep seriously and cook food thoroughly. It’s the only way to prevent the spread of food borne illness at your tailgate this fall. At FastMed, we support having a good time, but we have seen what can happen when people take a shortcut here or there with their tailgate cooking — and it’s not a pretty picture.

As always, we hope you will never need our services. We hope a food borne illness is something you never experience. But should you get an upset tummy or worse, give us a call. A healthcare professional at FastMed can help you get back on your feet before the next home game.