Whether you're doing Mardi Gras in the big city or keeping it local in your small town, parade food is a must.

But are you putting yourself at risk with your Mardi Gras parade snacks? When it comes to making your Mardi Gras parade plans, it's definitely more of a marathon than a sprint, but food safety is something that can go overlooked when you're more worried about parking, keeping an eye on the kids, and your head on a swivel for beads flying from passing floats.

We're less than a week away from Fat Tuesday, and only days away from what has been coined as the "Deep Gras" with new information from food scientists at the University of Holy Cross in New Orleans.

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New research from UHC breaks down which Carnival parade foods are most likely to "spoil" your Mardi Gras based on their respective levels of foodborne bacteria in a typical parade environment.

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In the first-of-its-kind study, researchers tested fried chicken, ham and cheese sandwiches, jambalaya, onion dip, dairy-based daiquiris, and an ice chest full of beer.

To complete the study, food and the ice chest samples left at room temperature were checked every two hours for a maximum of eight hours to check for foodborne bacteria and pathogen growth.

Surprisingly, the only food items that showed "significant growth" when it came to the testing were the ham and cheese sandwiches.

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Of all items tested, researchers did find that the ice chest with canned beer was "the most unsanitary even after just two hours of hands reaching in to grab a beer or soft drink after handing Mardi Gras beads."

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UHC Food Science Program Director Dr. Darryl Holiday said hand sanitizer is a must for those bringing their own brews to the Mardi Gras parades.

Next time you reach for that ice-cold beer on the parade route, you may want to think twice after picking it up and sanitize your hands and make sure you thoroughly clean your cooler after a long day of parades. And while we found most of the food to not show major bacterial growth after being left at room temperature for eight hours, we still recommend storing everything in cold storage as best as possible.

Take this new information with you to the parades this weekend and know that your delicious fried chicken, boudin, and beer should be safe to consume during a long day of Mardi Gras celebrations.

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You can check out more info on the UHC Food Science Program here on the official Holy Cross website.

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