It’s that time of year again. Every summer, four out of ten families will heat up the coals and pile on sausages, burgers, chicken and steaks and all those things that make for a good barbecue. It’s great way to eat – but unfortunately it can also be a great way to get food poisoning. Following a few simple rules will minimise the risk of an unhappy ending to your outdoor fun.

It’s all about being aware of bacteria. Bacteria are everywhere – on food, dirty hands, unwashed cooking equipment – and on flies, pets and other animals. Most bacteria are harmless, but there are a few which can result in a nasty case of food poisoning or even serious illness. And bacteria love the warm weather.

Three simple rules will beat the ‘barbie bug’:

  1. Be clean. Keep your hands clean at all times; wash vegetables before you cook them and rinse salads. Keep your utensils clean and always use separate tools for raw and cooked meats. Don’t put cooked foods back into the container you used to bring them into the garden uncooked. And make sure any helpers – including children – obey these rules too.
  2. Defrost thoroughly. Always defrost frozen meats and poultry fully before cooking – this means planning ahead and may mean getting foods out of the freezer the day before your barbecue. And keep all perishable foods cool until you need to use them – in the fridge or in a cool box or bag with ice packs.
  3. Cook thoroughly. Poultry, sausages, burgers and chopped or minced meats should always be cooked until they are piping hot throughout – the juices should run clear – and there should be no pink bits. Never eat them rare. It is a good idea to pre-cook poultry just before barbecuing, and use the barbecue to add flavour and crispness.

One more thing: take care with the fire. Use a sheltered, level site, away from anything that might catch fire. Keep pets and children at a distance; use long-handled equipment when handling hot coals, and keep a bucket of sand or water handy. Let the coals burn through and go white before cooking, so that food cooks more slowly and the inside is cooked through before the outside gets burnt. Have a happy and safe barbecue!

This article was supplied by the Food and Drink Federation ( Tel: 020 7836 2460) via Advanced Food Safety Limited, international food safety consultants & trainers. ( Tel: 01257 255910)

Notes to Editors:

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  1. The foodlink campaign is organised by the Food and Drink Federation in association with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Department of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department for Education and Employment and the Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards.
  2. The campaign aims to encourage food safety and food hygiene at all stages of the food chain and to improve awareness of good food hygiene practices in the home.
  3. A free copy of the foodlink food safety leaflets can be obtained from:The Food and Drink Federation (foodlink) P0 Box 27513 LONDON SE4 2WP
  4. Further information can be found on the foodlink website