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Football fans face formidable threat during Golden Game

When the Kansas City Chiefs faced off with the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl fifty years ago, tickets to the big game cost $12 and the average price for a visit to the doctor was $6.60, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For the “Golden Super Bowl” this weekend, face-value of the cheap seats is $850. A doctor visit for symptoms of food poisoning is now in the $130-$160 range, not including lab costs, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

football-snacks

One thing that hasn’t inflated in the past five decades is the agony a foodborne illness can cause. At the least, symptoms caused by norovirus can mean 12 hours of vomiting and diarrhea; at the worst, a case of listeriosis can kill you — just as it was when the Packers trounced the Chiefs 35-10.

Football fans are expected to consume more than 1.3 billion chicken wings and 4 million pizzas during the contest between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Throw in vast quantities of dips, deviled eggs and delectable desserts disintegrating on coffee tables and kitchen bar buffets, from pre-game commentary through post-game interviews with the MVP, and you’re easily in for a flag on the play.

“Just as the game has changed, our understanding of foodborne illness has also evolved,” USDA food safety education specialist Jason Waggoner said in a food safety reminder to football enthusiasts.

“Since the first game, USDA research has found that color and texture are unreliable indicators of safety and doneness. Using a food thermometer is the only way to ensure that meat, poultry and egg products have been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature.”

Waggoner said the hazards of kitchen towels are also better understood, citing them as a major source of cross-contamination, especially during parties.

“In spite of these changes, the four basic messages of food safety — clean, separate, cook, chill have remained the same,” Waggoner wrote.

football snacks

Before kickoff

Public health officials continue to say the best defense is in the palm of your hand, hands, actually.

Regardless of the sports season of the year, people should always wash their hands before and after preparing, handling or eating food. To be effective, use water and soap for 20 seconds before rinsing, Waggoner recommends. Educators suggest teaching children this healthy habit by singing the A,B,C song or a chorus of their favorite tune to ensure 20 seconds of scrubbing.

In the kitchen, Waggoner said a game-changing rule is to make sure raw meat and poultry do not come into contact with other food. Use separate plates and utensils for these items. Never place cooked food back on the same plate that previously held raw food.

To know for sure that meat and poultry are safely cooked, Waggoner said to use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the food. Follow the directions from the thermometer manufacturer to determine how long to leave it in before checking for the desired temperature. Those temperatures are:

  • 145° F for raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts. Allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • 160° F for raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal.
  • 165° F for raw poultry.

During the game

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods must have a heat source, and cold foods should be kept on ice to remain at a safe temperature and out of the “Danger Zone,” Waggoner wrote. The Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40° F and 140° F where bacteria multiply rapidly.

Leftover foods should be refrigerated promptly and not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Perishable foods left out longer than two hours should be discarded.

After the game

For those who make it through the final whistle without falling victim to room-temperature guacamole or coleslaw, the battle of the bulge after the indulge can be almost as daunting. Charles Platkin, director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College, offers a few tips.

Charles Platkin

Charles Platkin

“The ‘Big Game’ has become much more than a football game: It’s the second biggest day for food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving,” Platkin said in a recent news release.

To choose “the most splurgeworthy foods,” Platkin did the math and developed the following “exercise equivalents” for some of the most popular football foods.

Two slices of Domino’s pizza, ultimate pepperoni hand tossed crust, large (14 inch) = running 109 football fields. It’s 720 calories and you would have to run those 109 football fields at an average speed of 5 mph to counter the calories.

Fit Tip: Fit Tip: Get thin crust pizza with veggies and eat it for lunch, not just as a half-time snack.

A handful of peanuts (1 ounce) = coaching football for 35 minutes. An ounce (30 peanuts), is 166 calories.

Fit Tip: One of the best things about peanuts is that they contain a large amount of protein, and protein helps to keep you feeling full longer. But they’re also very high in calories. Don’t keep a huge bowl in front of you. Eat them one at a time instead of shoveling them in by the handful.

One potato chip with french onion dip = 30 minutes of singing along to Coldplay and Beyoncé during the halftime show. Each chip is 10.5 calories and every dip of dip is 60 calories.

Fit Tip: Try popped or baked-style chips and make dip with low-fat mayo or non-fat yogurt.

Two KFC original recipe chicken drumsticks = doing “the wave” 1,561 times. Deep-fried chicken is very high in calories. Believe it or not, the extra crispy at KFC has fewer calories. Two KFC drumsticks have 320 calories.

Fit Tip: Coat skinless chicken with whole-grain bread crumbs and bake it.

Two bottles of Budweiser = 267 touchdown dances in the end zone. Beer and football just go together, but keep in mind, each beer is 145 calories.

Fit Tip: Planning to have a few bottles? Best bet is to try sampling a few very light beers before the game to see which ones you prefer.

Five tortilla chips topped with seven-layer dip = 60 minutes performing in a marching band. This is a serious dip that includes refried beans, olives, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. It’s got about 30 calories per tablespoon with an additional 70 calories for five restaurant-style chips. The grand total is 280 calories.

Fit Tip: If you make the dip yourself, use low-fat cheese and sour cream and black beans, not refried. Or switch to salsa: 2 tablespoons have only about 15 calories. Also, go for light or baked chips instead of fried.

Two handfuls of Smartfood white cheddar cheese popcorn = 34 minutes climbing the stadium stairs. Is popcorn healthy?  Yes, it’s a whole grain and can be a great snack. However, if you add butter and lots of other high calorie toppings it can lose its health status.

Fit tip:  Try air popped popcorn or make it with cooking spray in a pan covered with a lid or screen.

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