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Enjoy Safe Tailgating Without a Penalty Trip to the ER

Football season is here. That means the competition in the parking lot is heating up! But it isn’t just football fans that have turned the tailgate party into a national pastime. NASCAR, soccer, even golf and horse racing events have their share of tailgaters, too.

It’s estimated that 80 percent of the U.S. population tailgates at least once a year, and that 78 percent of tailgaters use a grill to cook food at the event. Proper food handling and preparation are essential to the safe and successful tailgate.

Did you know: 

  • Approximately 47.8 million cases of foodborne illness annually result in more than 55,960 hospitalizations and 1,350 deaths in the U.S. each year. 
  • Grill injuries sent 16,900 people to the ER, including 7,400 with thermal burns, in 2012.

To keep everyone in your party in the game, be sure to make the following safety guidelines part of your tailgating playbook.

Food safety guidelines:

  • Transport hot and cold foods in separate, insulated carriers.
  • Place an appliance thermometer inside coolers to be sure cold foods stay at 40° F or below.
  • Securely wrap and seal raw meats to prevent juices from cross-contaminating other foods.
  • Do not partially cook meats at home to avoid bacterial growth.
  • Bring water, clean wet cloths or wipes, and paper towels to keep hands and food preparation surfaces clean.
  • Use separate utensils and containers for food preparation and serving.
  • Use a meat thermometer to verify the safe minimum internal temperature before serving.
  • Discard any foods left out of the cooler or off the grill more than two hours (one hour if the outside temperature is above 90°).

Grill safety guidelines:

  • Never leave a grill unattended and keep children at least three feet away.
  • Regularly check gas grill propane tank, hose and connections for leaks by applying soapy solution and looking for bubbles. Do not use grill if you smell gas or it fails the bubble test.
  • Clean grill grates and catch trays to remove grease or fat buildup that can catch fire.
  • If gas flame goes out, turn the grill off and wait at least 15 minutes before relighting.
  • For charcoal grill, keep lighter fluid out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • When charcoal grilling is finished, make sure coals are completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Keep a first-aid kit in your vehicle with antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment and bandages to clean and protect minor knife cuts or superficial first-degree burns from cooking. Also be aware of the symptoms of foodborne illness that often start within one to six hours of eating and may include: abdominal pain and cramps, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, dehydration, blurred vision and muscle weakness.

If someone in your party gets sick or has a more serious injury, it’s time to call the game and seek immediate medical help at Belton Regional Medical Center ER.

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