Throwing a Super Bowl party? Know the ‘2 hour rule’ to avoid illness

The Super Bowl usually lasts about four hours, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a two-hour rule when it comes to leaving food out at a Super Bowl Sunday party.

So what’s a football fan to do while watching the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers?

USDA food safety expert Meredith Carothers suggests keeping foods hot with a slow cooker or warming trays.

Cold foods should be nestled in ice, she said. Salsa and guacamole are included.

“We have a strict two-hour rule because foodborne illness bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature,” Carothers said. “If they reach a certain point, they can produce heat-resistant toxins that then won’t be killed by any reheating.”

Another strategy: Don’t serve all of your game grub at once.

“Have rounds of food ready to go,” Carothers said. “Keep a smaller amount out at one time (and) the rest of it in the fridge … ready to be reloaded onto that tray.”

Carothers also wants to blow the whistle on food preparation flubs.

For starters, washing or rinsing chicken wings, poultry or meats is a no-no, she said.

“When the water hits that poultry, it can splash different foodborne illness bacteria around your sink and around other surfaces,” she said. “Consumers may not actually be cleaning their sinks as well as they think, and then … it can spread bacteria later on down the road as you’re preparing more of your foods in your sink.”

Carothers recommends using a food thermometer to make sure poultry and meat are cooked to the proper internal temperature to kill bacteria. That’s 165 degrees for chicken wings and 160 degrees for ground beef and egg dishes. Several federal agencies have details on safe minimum cooking temperatures.

Also essential, Carothers said: If you use cutting boards, plates and knives to prepare raw meat, use different ones to prepare produce, or make sure to clean them thoroughly in between uses.

As you prepare for the 2020 Super Bowl, you can visit the Ask USDA a Question page or call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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