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updated: 1/28/2013 10:42 AM

A game plan to score points with safe football food

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David Hass

DUPAGE COUNTY--With the football season's biggest game scheduled on February 3, be sure to follow this food safety playbook from the DuPage County Health Department so no one gets sick and everyone goes home a winner.

A popular way to celebrate football games is to invite friends and family to a buffet. However, this type of food service, where foods may be out for long periods leaves the door open for uninvited guests --bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.

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Remember this pep talk from the Health Department for safe food handling: "Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill."

Below is a game plan on how to host a championship get-together:

ILLEGAL USE OF HANDS

Avoid penalties for "illegal use of hands." Unclean hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria, and finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable. Cooks and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, be sure to clean eating surfaces often, and wash serving platters before replenishing them with fresh food.

OFFSIDES

Think of your party fare as two different teams--uncooked versus ready-to-eat foods. Prevent "encroachment" at all costs and keep each team in its own zone. The juices from raw meat can contain harmful bacteria that cross-contaminate other food. Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for cutting veggies or foods that will not be cooked. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.

OFFENSIVE HOLDING

Call a "time out" and use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked. Remember that internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness. Steaks should be cooked to 145F, ground beef should be cooked to a minimum of 155F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165F. "Holding" may be one of the most likely offenses you encounter if your party lasts late into the night. Never hold foods for more than two hours at room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block offensive bacteria from multiplying. The same rules apply for cold foods. If cold food has been sitting out for more than two hours, do not eat it. When in doubt, throw it out of the game--and keep your guests safe.

For more information on the DuPage County Health Department, follow us on Twitter @DuPageHD or become a fan on Facebook.

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