How to keep BBQ food safe this summer

Simple tips to avoid food poisoning
  • Deborah Condon

With the good weather set to continue, barbeques have become increasingly popular in recent weeks, so Safefood has issued advice on how to protect yourself from food poisoning when cooking this summer.

According to recent figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there has been a big jump in VTEC infections, which is a common cause of food poisoning.

VTEC is a particular type of E.coli bacterium that lives in the gut of healthy cattle and sheep. Eating meat, especially minced beef, that has not been thoroughly cooked through to kill VTEC bugs is a major cause of food poisoning.

So with burgers and other meats being cooked on barbeque grills up and down the country, what can people do to avoid food poisoning? Safefood suggests the following tips:

-Clean your barbeque: If you haven't used your barbeque this year, clean it thoroughly by scrubbing the metal rack with an oven cleaner or a damp brush dipped in bicarbonate of soda. Rinse thoroughly with warn soapy water afterwards

-Keep cold foods cold: When eating outdoors, foods tend to be away from the fridge for longer than usual. This can lead to germs multiplying quickly. Perishable foods, such as coleslaw and salads, should be kept in the fridge until they are being eaten

-Defrost frozen food properly: Frozen foods must be fully thawed before you start cooking them on a barbeque. Preferably, they should be defrosted on the bottom shelf of a fridge, which may take over night. If they are not thawed properly, they may appear cooked on the outside, but still be raw on the inside, which is unsafe. Keep foods you plan to cook in the fridge or cool box until you need them

-Wash your hands: Wash hands before and after handling food

-Keep foods separate: Always keep raw meat separate from cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods like salads. Always use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked meat when cooking. Never put cooked food on a dish that has been used for raw meat or poultry unless it has been thoroughly washed in between use, and keep food covered whenever possible

-Cook food through: Make sure all food is cooked through, especially in the case of poultry, pork, minced meat and skewered meat, i.e. burgers, sausages and kebabs. The outside can look cooked, or even, burnt, but the inside may still be raw. These meats should be cooked until they are piping hot all the way through, with no pink meat remaining and the juices running clear. If you have a meat thermometer, use it - the temperature on the thickest part of the meat should read 75 degrees Celsius immediately. Beef and lamb steaks can be served rare as long as they are cooked on the outside, as harmful bacteria will only be on the outside. However, burgers must be cooked through as once meat is minced, the harmful bacteria are spread throughout

-Be careful when marinating: If marinating meat, make sure any marinade used on raw meat is not used as a sauce to coat vegetables or cooked meat as it will contain raw meat bacteria. If you want to use marinade as a sauce, be sure to cook it in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil before serving it

-Use leftovers safely: Leftovers should not be left outside. They should be covered and allowed to cool in a cool place and then put in the fridge. This should be done within two hours of cooking. If in doubt, throw it out.

For more information on barbequing safely, click here


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