Summer safety - Barbecues and food safety

Published: 2 Jul 2011 09:30

Tips on preventing illness during barbecue season

Summer can be a time when it's easier to eat more healthily with tempting fresh fruit, vegetables, and healthy options of food such as low-fat yoghurts available. However, cases of food poisoning tend to increase over the summer months as we enter the barbecue season. While food poisoning is mild in many cases, children, older people and those with lower immunity are more vulnerable to food poisoning.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran's Public Health department have issued some simple steps to help reduce the risk of food poisoning and allow you to enjoy the experience of summertime eating:

Prevent cross-contamination

Cross-contamination happens when the germs from raw meat transfer onto your hand and anything else you then touch. It also happens when the germs from raw meat touch anything else that then comes into contact with food. Here are some tips to help you prevent cross-contamination:

Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after touching raw meat and before eating.

Separate raw meat from cooked and ready to eat food.

Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat. Never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has been used for raw meat.

Don't put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked food on the barbecue.

Keep raw meat in a separate sealed container away from food that is ready to eat.

Don't put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has been used with raw meat.

Cooking meat properly

The safest way to barbecue is to first cook meat indoors in the oven or under the grill. Check it is properly cooked (piping hot in the middle, that the juices run clear and no pink meat is visible), and then transfer it to the barbecue to give it the barbecued flavour. If you do this, it is important to keep hot food hot. Here are some tips to help you cook meat properly on the barbecue:

If you are using a charcoal barbecue, make sure the barbecue coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking - this means they are hot enough. You can use recognised firelighters or barbecue fuels on cold coals to help heat your barbecue but never use petrol to light it.

Make sure frozen meat (including chicken) is properly thawed before you cook it.

Turn meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to make sure it is cooked evenly.

Don't put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked food on the barbecue.

Store food correctly

It is important to keep certain foods at the right temperature to help prevent bacteria multiplying. Here are some tips to help you store food correctly:

Certain foods, such as salads, cooked rice, cooked meats and dairy products such as dips and yoghurts should all be kept cool and stored in the fridge. Remember to wash fruit and vegetables in cold running water before eating them.

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot to stop food poisoning germs from multiplying - don't leave food standing around.

If you are taking food out - for example, to a picnic -use a cool bag with ice packs to help keep the food cool. Keep the food in the cool bag until you are ready to use it.

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