Super Bowl party hosts and their guests should take a defensive strategy against food-borne illness by following some basic rules.

Donna Carlson of the USDA's food safety and inspections service says everyone should know the four key steps to food safety; clean, separate, cook and chill, and she suggests using pig-skin terminology and think of food safety violations in football terms.

So, for example, to avoid an equipment violation make sure your food thermometer works.

"You want to make sure that your food is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. The only way to know for sure is to use a food thermometer."

Another violation, illegal use of hands, means clean your hands before handling food.  A holding penalty may follow for warm food kept at room temperature for longer than two hours allowing bacteria to form.

Carlson says everyone should keep the rules in mind to avoid a false start, because there are no instant replays when it comes to food-borne illness.