Death to the barbecue bugs
You would not want to share your lovely plate of summer barbecued food with this trio would you?
Bugs such as the trio pictured - E.coli O157, Salmonella and Campylobacter - are often present on raw meat and poultry, and can cause serious illness.
But you can deal with the unseen assassins and avoid food poisoning by taking some simple steps when you plan and cook your barbecue.
Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines, and perhaps a few things you hadn't thought about; such as avoiding cross contamination from raw meat to cooked meat ready to eat by not using the same utensils you used to put the raw meat on the barbecue to then transfer the cooked meat to the plate.
- Buy your food from a reputable supplier. If you're shopping ahead of the barbecue, make sure the food is stored properly and is still in date when you cook it.
- Allow plenty of time to defrost food you have taken out of the freezer. Meat and poultry should be defrosted in a suitable container (to stop any of the juices dripping onto other foods) on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Make sure meat and chicken are thoroughly defrosted before they are cooked.
- Never wash raw meat or chicken - you'll just spread bugs onto kitchen surfaces. Proper and through cooking will deal with the bugs. They cannot survive prolonged heat in an oven.
- If you are preparing raw meat in the kitchen, use a chopping board that is used only for raw meat. Make sure you wash it in hot soapy water and then spray it with antibacterial spray, or wash it on the hot cycle in a dishwasher.
- Make sure you wash your hands after handling raw meat. Be careful when turning off taps - you don't want to re-contaminate clean hands. Turn them off with a paper towel, then throw it away and dry your hands on a new paper towel.
- If using a traditional barbecue there is always a temptation to get the party started by putting the meat on the second the initial flames have died down. DON'T. Have a beer and wait until the charcoal is glowing red and has a powdery grey surface before you start to cook.
- If possible, pre-cook chicken in a normal oven and use the barbecue to crisp the skin and add flavour.
- Try to keep food out of the fridge for as short a time as possible. If it is standing in the warm sun, it will create the perfect environment for bugs to grow.
- Turn food frequently to ensure even cooking. Food such as chicken pieces, kebabs, pork, sausages and burgers must be cooked until they are piping hot in the middle, the juices are running clear and there is no pink meat left. If you use a probe thermometer to check, aim for 75°C in the middle of the food. Just because it's charred on the outside doesn't mean it's cooked all the way through.
- Raw meat can contain bugs that cause food poisoning, so it must never touch food that has been cooked and is ready to eat.
- Wash your hands after placing raw meat on the barbecue.
- Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat - don't take food off the barbecue with the same tongs you used to pick it up when raw.
- Don't put cooked food on a plate or surface that has been used for raw meat, unless it has been washed thoroughly.
- If you are handling and cooking raw meat, get someone else to hand out the cooked barbecue food, bread, salads and desserts.
- If you have used a sauce or marinade on your raw meat or chicken, don't use it on cooked food.
- Eat the food when it is freshly cooked and piping hot, or keep it hot on the barbecue. If you have leftover cooked meats, cool them quickly and get them into the fridge as soon as possible.
- High-risk items such as rice salads or fresh cream desserts should be returned to the fridge immediately after service.