Summer weather brings with it great opportunities to cook and eat outside, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. But handling food with care and safety is essential in warm conditions to prevent upset stomachs.
Enjoying outdoor eating
When the weather is warm, it’s fabulous family fun to spend time outdoors. Unfortunately, the heat can make handling food safely more complicated as germs spread more easily in warm conditions. If your food hygiene is poor, it can also mean that bacteria such as E. Coli , Salmonella and Campylobacter can spread easily, causing tummy upset. Don’t get caught out this summer. By following some simple hygiene precautions you can ensure you have a happier and healthier barbeque.
Quick tips for handling food safely
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling foods such as raw meat.
- Wash down all food preparation boards and surfaces regularly then dry them thoroughly afterwards.
- Keep marinades for raw and cooked meats apart, and throw away any leftover marinade if you've been dipping a brush in and out of it.
- Don’t leave food such as dips, dairy products and meat out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.
- Keep raw meat away from cooked foods and those that are ready to eat, such as salads and buns.
- Defrost any frozen meat thoroughly before cooking it.
- Ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly before eating.
Why is handling food hygienically so important?
To avoid tummy upset you must ensure that you prepare food hygienically and cook it thoroughly – the two main risks come from undercooking meat and spreading germs from raw meat onto food you’re about to cook. You should also ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before preparing or eating food, or use a hand sanitiser when soap and water is not available.
What you should know
Tummy upset is usually mild, and most people get better within a week. But sometimes it can be more severe, so it’s important to take the risks seriously. Children and older people are particularly vulnerable to tummy upset.
How good hygiene can help
You should be vigilant when preparing food for consumption outside. This means washing your hands regularly before and after handling food such as raw meats. Clean and disinfect all food preparation boards and surfaces regularly before drying them thoroughly. Remember to clean up thoroughly after eating outside, including cleaning the barbeque grill and utensils.
Cooking meat on a barbeque
When you’re cooking any kind of meat on a barbeque, such as poultry, pork, steak, burgers or sausages, make sure the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking. This means that they're hot enough. Ensure that frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it, and once on the barbeque, turn the meat regularly and move it around the grill plates so that it cooks evenly.
The general rules are that meat is ready to eat when it is piping hot in the centre, there is no pink meat visible and any juices are clear. You shouldn’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside it will be cooked properly on the inside. A good way of checking is to cut the meat at the thickest part and ensure none of it is pink on the inside.
Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle) as long as the outside has been properly cooked. This will kill any bacteria that might be on the outside of the meat. However, food made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers, must be cooked thoroughly all the way through.
Handling raw meat
Germs from raw meat can move easily onto your hands and then anything else you touch. This includes food that is cooked and ready to eat. This is called cross-contamination and it can happen if raw meat touches anything (including plates, cutlery, tongs and chopping boards) that then comes into contact with other food.
To help prevent cross-contamination, always make sure you wash your hands after touching raw meat. Use separate utensils for cooked and raw meat and never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has had raw meat on it. Also keep raw meat away from any foods that are ready to eat, such as salads and buns. Don’t put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat.
Keeping food cool
It’s also important to keep some foods cool to prevent germs multiplying. Keep salads, dips, dairy products, desserts and cream cakes, sandwiches, ham and other cooked meats, and cooked rice (including rice salads) cool in the fridge where possible. Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.
Make sure your barbeque is steady on a level surface, away from plants and trees, and only use recognised firelighters or starter fuel – and then only on cold coals. Never use petrol on a barbeque.