As excitement for this year’s big game grows, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages consumers to use safe food handling practices at a championship level and avoid becoming one of the estimated 48 million Americans who gets sick from foodborne illnesses each year.

The game draws more than 100 million television viewers who consume approximately 1.3 billion chicken wings during game day parties.

With an average National Football League game taking more than three hours to play, Americans will be mixing plenty of football watching with food during game parties.

At these parties, it is vital to keep foods out of the “Danger Zone,” which is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F.

When foods are left in the “Danger Zone,” bacteria can multiply rapidly, causing a single bacterium to multiply to 17 million in 12 hours.

Avoid serving favorites, such as pizza and chicken wings, at room temperature for the entire game. When serving food or ordering takeout food, use the following game plan:

• If warm takeout foods are to be served immediately, keep them at 140°F or above by placing in chafing dishes, preheated warming trays or slow cookers.

• If take-out foods will not be served immediately, either keep them warm in a preheated oven or divide the food into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers and refrigerate them. At serving time, reheat food to 165°F. Cold foods that are served should be kept at 40°F or below, which can be done by nesting serving dishes in bowls of ice.

Avoid storing food outside, where the sun can quickly warm foods in plastic storage containers and animals can get into them. Start a game day tradition by using a food thermometer to ensure foods being served to guests are not in the “Danger Zone.” To ensure home prepared chicken wings are safe, follow these tips:

• Do not wash raw chicken wings. Sixty-seven percent of respondents in a 2016 FDA food safety survey indicated they washed raw chicken parts. However washing will not destroy pathogens, and it may in-crease the risk of contaminating other foods and surfaces.

• Ensure chicken wings are safe to eat by verifying they have reached an internal temperature of 165°F. Take the temperature of multiple wings in the thickest part of the wing being careful to avoid the bone.

Learn more about key food safety practices at foodsafety.gov.

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