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Keep food in the safety zone

Friends at tailgate party

DALLAS – Jan. 28, 2019 – Whether you’re grilling in the backyard or at a tailgate party, UT Southwestern Medical Center toxicologists say you can avoid food poisoning with a few cautionary steps.

“Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean food won’t spoil or become contaminated. Make sure your guests carry home fond memories instead of stomachaches or worse with sound food handling and preparation practices,” says Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, a toxicologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.


  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • If you’re not going to use meats within a couple of days, freeze them. Once you’ve thawed meat, cook it. Don’t refreeze thawed meat.
  • Pack plenty of ice in coolers to store raw or leftover foods at tailgate parties.
  • Keep meats for grilling cold until you put them on the grill.


  • Before starting, wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t leave food standing for long periods of time. A general rule of thumb is not to leave foods out for more than one hour.
  • Eat hot dishes as soon as they’re cooked or while they’re still hot.
  • Remove cold foods from the refrigerator just before serving and put them away quickly.
  • Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils that come in contact with raw meats. Use different dishes and utensils for cooked meats and raw meats.


Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt
  • Heat foods to recommended temperatures to kill bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to be sure the food is thoroughly cooked.
  • All ground beef offerings should be prepared “well done” – meaning the juices run clear and there is no pink inside. This is recommended because bacteria on the outside of a piece of meat can end up on the “inside” of ground beef. 
  • Generally, grilled meats should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry to at least 160 degrees. Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees in order to destroy the parasite that causes trichinosis. This disease causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle soreness, fever, and swelling around the eyes. And when grilling pork ribs, you don’t want the meat to be red near the bone.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.4 million outpatient visits a year.