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USDA offers tips to avoid food-borne illness during Super Bowl

WASHINGTON — As the Super Bowl approaches, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging consumers to use safe food-handling practices at a championship level to avoid becoming one of the estimated 48 million Americans who gets sick from food-borne illnesses each year.

The Super Bowl draws more than 100 million television viewers who consume about 1.3 billion chicken wings during game day parties. With an average National Football League game taking more than three hours to play, Americans will be mixing plenty of football watching with food during Super Bowl parties.

USDA says it is vital to keep foods out of the “danger zone,” which is the temperature range between 40 and 140. When foods are in that temperature range, bacteria can multiply rapidly, causing a single bacterium to multiply to 17 million in 12 hours. Avoid serving Super Bowl favorites such as pizza and chicken wings at room temperature for the entire game, USDA advises.

When serving food or ordering takeout food, use the following game plan:

  • If warm takeout foods are to be served immediately, keep them at 140 degrees or above by placing them in chafing dishes, preheated warming trays or slow cookers.
  • If takeout foods will not be served immediately, either keep them warm in a preheated oven or divide the food into smaller portions, place it in shallow containers and refrigerate. At serving time, reheat to 165 degrees.
  • Cold foods that are served should be kept at 40 degrees or below, which can be done by nesting serving dishes in bowls of ice. Avoid storing food outside, where the sun can quickly warm foods in plastic storage containers.
  • Start a game day tradition by using a food thermometer to ensure foods being served to guests are not in the “danger zone.”

To ensure home-prepared chicken wings are safe, follow these tips:

  • Do not wash raw chicken wings. Sixty-seven percent of respondents in a 2016 Food and Drug Administration food safety survey indicated they wash raw chicken parts. But washing will not destroy pathogens and may increase the risk of contaminating other foods and surfaces, USDA says.
  • Ensure chicken wings are safe to eat by verifying they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Take the temperature of multiple wings in the thickest part of the wing, being careful to avoid the bone.

For more food safety tips, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854 or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in English or Spanish. More food safety information is at foodsafety.gov and on Twitter @USDAFoodSafety.

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