If you are planning a Super Bowl Party, you may not expect this to be at your party, but it appears this unwanted item will do its best to be there.

What is the No. 1 item served at Super Bowl parties? You may think it's pizza or chicken wings, but it's not. It's bacteria. Those tables laden with food for hours--especially finger foods with large crowds--are prime breeding grounds for the bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.

What can you do as a host or a guest to stay well? The USDA has some suggestions, made in language all football fans can easily understand:

  • Illegal use of hands
    Avoid penalties for "illegal use of hands." Unclean hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria, and finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, be sure to clean eating surfaces often, and wash serving platters before replenishing them with fresh food.
  • Offsides
    Think of your party fare as two different teams: uncooked versus ready-to-eat foods. Prevent "encroachment" at all costs and keep each team in its own zone. The juices from raw meat can contain harmful bacteria that cross-contaminate other food. Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for cutting veggies or foods that will not be cooked. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Equipment violations
    Call a "time out" and use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked. Remember that internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness. Steaks should be cooked to 145 degrees F, ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F.