Food Safety Tips for Tailgating

What do people look forward to the most about the fall? Is it the cooler temperatures and bonfires? The changing color of the leaves? The slathering of pumpkin spice flavor in every product imaginable? If you said “no” to these fall favorites, maybe for you it is the return of college football and tailgating. One thing for sure that no one looks forward to is severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and spending several hours or days hugging their toilet as a result of preventable foodborne illness.

Every year in the United States, the CDC estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases. Those numbers don’t discriminate and don’t have to include you or friends and family, if a few basic rules of food safety while eating and drinking are followed. Clean and Separate, Cook and Check, Chill and Hold: What You Need to Know:

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash all utensils and cutting boards.
  • Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like vegetables when preparing, serving, or storing foods using separate coolers.
  • Use an additional cooler for beverages.
  • Offer guests individual serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating dips and salsa directly from the bowls.
  • Make sure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature and use a working thermometer to verify.
  • Keep hot foods hot (140°F or warmer) and cold foods cold (40°F or colder).
  • Throw out perishable food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours (more than 1 hour if it has been exposed to temperatures above 90°F).
Tailgate prep table with Clemson Apron. Joseph McIntosh, ©2020

Tailgate prep table with Clemson Apron.
Joseph McIntosh, ©2020

Whole pork butt. Joseph McIntosh, ©2020

Whole pork butt.
Joseph McIntosh, ©2020

A large piece of meat being cooked on a grill Description automatically generated with low confidence

Pork butt on grill with thermometer to check internal temperature.
Joseph McIntosh, ©2020

Follow these steps while cheering on your favorite team and ensure that the only thing that comes to your tailgate party is cooler temperatures, bonfires, changing leaves, and all things pumpkin spice.

For CDC Rules of the game see, Rule of the Game for Food Safety.

For more information on food safety, see HGIC 3544, Food Safety for Community Suppers, HGIC 3500, Basics of Safe Food Handling, and HGIC 3495, Food Safety Mistakes You Do Not Want to Make.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

Factsheet Number



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This