Food Safety for Election Watch Parties

Throwing a party for the midterm elections? It’s tricky, since parties on election nights don’t always turn out to be a celebration. Just use your political instincts and offer an abundance of food and drink themed for the event.

You and your friends will hang out, cheering and heckling, while intensely watching the results trickle in. Regardless of the results, one thing is for sure – food will be an important part of the occasion and food safety will play an important part of the day after.

What is Foodborne Illness?

Food poisoning, sometimes called foodborne illness, is a common, but preventable condition caused by eating foods contaminated with harmful pathogens or bacteria.

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According to the CDC, each year about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

Bacteria “Danger Zone”

One of the critical factors in controlling bacteria in food is controlling temperature. Bacteria grows very slowly at temperatures below 40°F, multiply rapidly between 40°F and 140°F, and are destroyed at temperatures above 140°F. The temperature range in which foodborne bacteria can grow is known as the “Danger Zone”.

Food Safety Steps

Good hygiene and cooking foods thoroughly are the best and easiest ways to avoid food illness. To prevent food illness it is recommended to:

  • Always clean your hands, utensils and food surfaces before using them;
  • Separate foods and avoid cross-contamination. Never store raw foods next to ready-to-eat foods;
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature. Check them using a food thermometer:
    • ground meats: 160°F
    • fresh beef, veal, and lamb: 145°F (let stand 3 minutes)
    • poultry: 165°F
    • pork and ham: 145°F (let stand 3 minutes)
    • egg dishes: 160°F, cook eggs until whites are firm
    • leftover dishes and casseroles: 165°F
    • fish: 145°F or flesh can come apart with a fork
    • shellfish: cook until shells open on their own
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours since purchase or preparation;
  • Defrost food safely in the refrigerator;
  • Make sure to dispose of food if you are unsure of its safety.

People Vulnerable to Foodborne Illness

Anyone can get a foodborne illness, but people in certain groups are more likely to get sick and to have a more serious illness. These groups are: young children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with weakened immune systems.


Having an election watch party can be emotional and complicated, but the safety of your party food is not.