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Super Bowl snacks are often ripe for bacteria parties

Don’t keep raw poultry more than two days before cooking, and don’t wash it before cooking because of the danger of cross-contamination. (Larry Crowe / Associated Press)
Don’t keep raw poultry more than two days before cooking, and don’t wash it before cooking because of the danger of cross-contamination. (Larry Crowe / Associated Press)

Millions of Americans will host or attend Super Bowl parties this Sunday. Munchies abound on tables typically for more than four hours.

Spoiler alert: Food poisoning is common because some eatables entertain bacteria after sitting out for the lengthy show, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. Dips that should be chilled after two hours go overtime, or raw meat juice lands on a veggie.

Technical information specialist Maribel Alonso often answers the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline. For The Spokesman-Review this week, she offered tips for hosting, or attending, game-day parties.

Keep game-day foods safe: By halftime, either replace foods with fresh items or refrigerate them. “It can’t stay out for more than two hours to keep it safe,” she said.

“Sometimes when we’re hosting a party, we have all the food out as our guests arrive, and then we start watching the game and forget.”

Another option is to nest perishable foods in a bowl of ice, such as for a dip or coleslaw. For hot items, keep the heat above 140 degrees by using slow cookers or warming trays.

Wash hands often: As these parties bring on finger foods, there’s a lot of touching, Alonso added.

She tells people to wash hands often to prevent cross-contamination. Keep raw meat away from other foods and surfaces. “You want to wash your hands before you start preparing any foods.”

Other times for hand-washing: after touching raw meat, going to the bathroom and touching a pet.

Chicken wings: Many callers ask about these crispy faves, Alonso said. One query is how long to store wings before cooking. “We say you don’t want to keep raw poultry for more than two days.”

“For how long to cook them, we always recommend to use a food thermometer and make sure they reach 165-degree internal temperature. Sometimes it’s a little hard to measure that, but look for the thickest part, and don’t touch any bone.”

Should you wash raw chicken before cooking? Alonso cites the USDA opinion: Don’t because of cross-contamination that can spread to vegetables or ready-to-eat foods.

“We say that’s a step you don’t need. When you buy poultry from the store, it’s washed.”

In an observational study two years ago, the agency found that when participants washed poultry, bacteria spread around the sink and counter tops. “Even though you think you’re sanitizing afterward, a lot of participants didn’t do it properly.

“We found 60% of participants contaminated their sink, and 26% of the salads prepared were contaminated by participants who washed or rinsed their chicken.”

Don’t forget risks: “There are millions of Americans every year who suffer from foodborne illness. It happens more often than you think,” she said. Even pizza can be a culprit during parties. “You can cause bacteria to proliferate after two hours. Even if you’re warming it up later, there’s still a risk.”

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5439

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