RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's football season -- it's time to tailgate! But along with your burgers and bratwurst, you may be packing something else in your cooler that can make you very sick: food poisoning.
Barbecues are blazing, burgers are sizzling, tailgating season is on. Exclaimed tailgator Scott Crewell from upstate New York, "We have marinated steak, we have chicken, sausage!"
Your most challenging opponent at the game, explains Virginia Cooperative Extension food safety expert Twandra Lomax-Brown, is "salmonella from touching the raw foods and going back to your cooked foods without washing your hands."
Lomax-Brown says pack your drinks and food in separate coolers and replace ice as it melts. Don't store raw meat in store wrapping. It can leak. Lomax-Brown showed us, "You want to pack your meats that might leak, such as your ground beef or your chicken, in a zip lock bags so they won't leak on the food that's in the cooler."
Wash you hands, utensils and work space. Put foil on the grill, clean it, or use a disposable grill, such as the EZ Grill (You can find disposable EZ Grills at Winn Dixie or at www.ezgrill.com). Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat. And don't eat anything left out more than two hours. Said Lomax-Brown, "Once you're done with your perishable foods, return those directly to your cooler."
Those are the rules. So we peaked into some tailgators' coolers at Richmond International Raceway. Some left meat in it's original packaging, showing us, "We got ourselves some sausages!"
And some put drinks in the same cooler with their raw meat. "Gatorade on top, chicken wings, marinating chicken."
But most followed the rules. Said tailgator Drew Massey, "we've got enough ice in that. We check it every time we stop along the road."
In fact, these tailgators scored better overall than some local restaurants in tonight's Restaurant Report.
In Chesterfield, the Golden Skillet at 7108 Hull Street Road received 8 critical violations in a recent state health inspection, including a food employee failing to wash their hands before food preparation. The restaurant received a perfect score on a follow up inspection.
In Henrico, Chung Hing Restaurant at 3053 Lauderdale Drive received 5 critical violations. The inspector says an employee rinsed a utensil, but did not clean or sanitize it. A follow up report is not yet available.
The NBC 12 Hall of Fame award goes to Subway at 3135 Mechanicsville Turnpike in Henrico. This sandwich shop has earned perfect scores on six health inspections in a row.
Here is a complete check list of tailgating food safety tips from the Virginia Cooperative Extension and food safety experts:
Wash hands before, during and after preparing food for a tailgate.
Be sure to pack moist towelettes for guests to clean up before digging in.
Always defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave - never at the tailgate.
Marinate meat in the refrigerator and don't reuse the marinade unless boiled.
For the trip to the tailgate, tightly seal raw or thawed meat in plastic wrap to prevent juices from contaminating other food items.
Consider packing meat products in one cooler and additional foods in another.
Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate.
Pack extra or color-coded plates or utensils to help prevent cross-contamination. Use one set for raw foods and another for cooked foods.
Cook to proper temperatures. A meat thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure foods are safe to eat.
Tailgating favorites like hamburgers and bratwurst should be cooked to 160°F and chicken breasts to 170° F.
Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or icepacks to keep temperatures below 40° F. Keep a refrigerator thermometer inside the cooler at all times to monitor the temperature.
In cool-weather climates, transport coolers in your trunk rather than in a heated car - the cold temperatures outside will help keep food chilled.
For warmer climates, do the opposite. Transport coolers in the backseat of your air-conditioned car instead of the hot trunk, especially for long road trips.
Don't forget that carry-out and/or prepared foods are also susceptible to food poisoning.
Throw away perishable tailgate items before entering the game.
Foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours. In hot weather (90° F or above) this time is reduced to one hour.
After the game, serve and eat only non-perishable foods unless foods packed in the cooler remain stored at 40° F or below.