Hosting a Super Bowl Party? How Not to Make Your Guests Sick!

People at buffet

Credit: Creative Life Changes

The Super Bowl. The most important game of the season and supposedly the most watched annual television program in the United States. Some people think Super Bowl Sunday should be declared a national holiday.

As for the amount of food people eat while watching the game — it’s a lot! Super Bowl Sunday comes in second for food consumption after Thanksgiving.

I found a few statistics on Wikipedia about just how much food is consumed:

  • Roughly 28,000,000 pounds (13,000,000 kg) of chips, which if laid end to end would stretch for 293,000 miles (472,000 km).
  • 90 million chicken wings.
  • 8,000,000 pounds (3,600,000 kg) of guacamole. If all the guacamole consumed was spread over a football field it would be 11.8 feet deep.

Certain foods are more likely to be served at Super Bowl parties:

  • Buffalo hot wings
  • Pizza
  • Chili
  • Potato chips
  • Dips
  • Salsa

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party at your house this Sunday, make sure the food you serve your friends is not only delicious, but also safe to eat. According to NSF International, a global public health and safety organization, one of the biggest food safety mistakes people make at parties is letting perishable food items sit out for too long.

Cheryl Luptowski, NSF International Home Safety Expert, has all kinds of food safety tips to help protect your guests and you against foodborne illness.

Buffet food

Proper Food Handling

  • Any foods – hot or cold – that have been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours can easily allow bacteria to multiply and cause illness.
  • Once served hot foods need to be held at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays to keep foods warm.
  • Cold foods need to be held at 40°F or colder. Keep cold dishes in the refrigerator until just before serving and nest dishes in bowls of ice to help keep the food cold.
  • Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter, and replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dirty platter.
  • Keep track of how long foods have been sitting out — if it’s perishable and has been sitting out for more than two hours, play it safe and throw it out.

Use a Thermometer

  • Because internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness, it’s important to use a food thermometer to verify foods are cooked thoroughly.
  • Perishable foods such as meat and poultry need to be cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Steaks should be cooked to at least 145°F with a 3-minute rest time.
  • Hamburgers need to be cooked to 160°F.
  • Whole or ground poultry should be cooked to a minimum of 165°F.
  • Hot dishes that are prepared in advance can be stored in the refrigerator until game time. When your guests arrive, simply reheat the food to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Keep the Kitchen Clean
To avoid cross-contamination, clean and sanitize all food preparation surfaces before and after handing foods.

  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Always wash any platters, cutting boards or utensils that have touched uncooked meat or poultry with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly before using with any other food. NSF’s Germ Study found Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold on common kitchen appliances such as blender gaskets, can openers and rubber spatulas because the items were not properly disassembled and then cleaned and dried before storage.

Clean Hands
Dirty hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria, and finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable.

  • Don’t prepare or handle food without first washing your hands and encourage your party guests to do the same.
  • If you have younger party guests, introduce them to the Scrub Club (, where the Soaper Heroes can help them learn how to properly wash their hands.
  • Proper hand washing includes washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, then rinsing thoroughly and drying with a clean towel (or under an air dryer).
  • Never cook while sick. Avoid the spread of germs and illness by calling a caterer or asking a friend or family member to take over in the kitchen. Also be sure to clean and sanitize your kitchen and home thoroughly if guests are coming over.
  • Don’t double dip with either fingers or utensils. Double dipping can spread germs to an entire room full of guests. Always use a different, clean utensil if you taste a dish while cooking, and never use your fingers to grab a sample.

You may also be interested in the results of NSF International’s kitchen pet peeves survey: Study Finds Vast Majority of Americans Make Food Safety Mistakes, which found that four out of five Americans (82 percent) have made at least one food safety mistake when cooking for others, such as forgetting to wash their hands before preparing food or serving something that fell on the floor. Yet, most Americans (96 percent) find those same mistakes disturbing when committed by others.

Enjoy your Super Bowl party and may your team win!

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now, she's a baby boomer not interested in retiring. She writes the Catching Health blog and is a regular guest on the WCSH6/WLBZ2 Morning Report. She's also a college art student at USM. You can read about that adventure on Diane's other blog She says it's good (and healthy) to be busy!