- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 6, 2016

It is a big, bustling, hungry audience: media analysts anticipate that 189 million U.S. fans are expected to watch the fiftieth Super Bowl on Sunday, with another 100 million tuning in worldwide. Big game culture is in force: the National Retail Federation says Americans will spend $15.5 billion on team apparel, decorations and of course the traditional menu of pizza, nachos, beer, hoagies, chili and other goodies – like chicken wings. Americans will scarf down 1.3 million of them according to the National Chicken Council, a meticulous industry group which says this figure is up by 3 percent since last year. Not to be outdone, Dominos expects to sell 12 million pizzas.

The Food Network offers hundreds of Super Bowl party recipes for those inclined to do it themselves here

And yes, there is an actual game in there somewhere. Some 8.6 million Americans raced out and bought a state-of-the art TV just for the event. The Super Bowl is also open to interpretation by the audience. According to the retail federation, 35 percent of the fans say the football game is the most important part of the day while 18 percent say they’re more interested in watching the commercials - priced at $5 million per 30 second spot this time around. That prices out at over $166,666 a second. During the first Super Bowl in 1967, the total cost per spot was a paltry $42,000.

Scientists have also entered the football fray. This year, the American Chemical Society brought in the big thinkers to come up with the ultimate recipe for nachos. Their advice for home chefs: throw in a little sodium citrate with the cheese for a velvety, restaurant-style queso dip.

“Nacho fans have wrestled for years with finding a cheese that doesn’t leave a gritty, oily mess or a liquid nightmare on top of chips. Turns out, chemistry has the answer,” the organization notes. Find their instruction for “next level nachos” here

Nielsen Media – which tracks other things besides TV habits – reveals that among U.S. adults, 53 percent said they planned to drink beer during the game; 24 percent opt for wine, 23 percent hard liquor/spirits. Budweiser, incidentally, will be mocking the craft beer crowd in their Super Bowl ad, for the second year in a row.

And the accompaniments to all these libations, according to Nielsen: Americans spent $140 million on potato chips; shelled out $91 million on “unflavored nuts”; $93 million on crackers, $20 million on tortilla chips and a mere $5.1 million on those virtuous vegetable trays.

But alas, close quarters and shared dishes are not the best mix, however. Celebrants can spread the flu, with people over 65 particularly at risk.

“It’s people that are staying at home and hosting small local gatherings that are actually passing influenza among themselves,” says Charles Stoecker , a researcher with Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “Every year, we host these parties that we go to and it changes mixing patterns and you are coughing and sneezing and sharing chips and dip with people that you often don’t and so we get the influenza transmitted in novel ways.”

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