Barbecues: food safety

content supplied by NHS Choices

Barbecues are a great part of summer, but cases of food poisoning in the UK double in the summer months.

Germs from raw meat can move easily on to your hands and then to anything else you touch, including food that's cooked and ready to eat

In June, July and August there are more than 120,000 cases of the top two bugs (salmonella and campylobacter). Some simple precautions can help you keep food safe.

Food poisoning is usually mild, and most people get better within a week. But sometimes it can be more severe, even deadly, so it’s important to take the risks seriously. Children, older people and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

"The safest option is to cook food in the kitchen using your cooker," says a spokesperson from the Food Standards Agency. "You can then put the cooked food outside on the barbecue for flavour." This can be an easier option if you're cooking for lots of people.

But if you prefer to cook on the barbecue, the two main risk factors are: 

This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter. However, it’s easy to kill these germs if you cook the meat until it’s piping hot all the way through. 

Cooking meat 

These tips apply to all kinds of meat, including burgers, sausages, chicken, lamb, pork and beef.

When you’re cooking meat on a barbecue, make sure:

Remember that meat is safe to eat only when:

"Don’t assume that because meat is charred [black or burned] on the outside it will be cooked properly on the inside," says the FSA spokesperson. "Cut into the meat to ensure none of it is pink inside."

Raw meat

Germs from raw meat can move easily on to your hands and then on to anything else you touch, including food that is cooked and ready to eat. This is called cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination can happen if raw meat touches anything (including plates, cutlery, tongs and chopping boards) that then comes into contact with other food.

Some easy steps to help prevent cross-contamination are: 

Keeping food cool

It’s also important to keep some foods cool to prevent food-poisoning germs multiplying.

Always keep the following foods cool: 

Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.

See the Food Standards Agency's food safety campaign.

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