Bangers not bugs – that’s the message from Medway Council as it gives advice to people to ensure they’re not left with food poisoning from a barbecue.

“”Summer is a great time for barbecues. We want people to have a great and enjoyable time, and they can if they follow a few simple rules”, said Councillor Mike O’Brien, who holds the authority’s portfolio for Community Safety and Customer Contact.

Undercooked meat, and spreading bacteria from raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat, are the two biggest causes of food poisoning. But the germs will be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout, and raw and cooked meat should always be kept separately.

If you’re cooking any kind of meat or fish on a barbecue, such as poultry (chicken or turkey), pork, steak, burgers or sausages, ensure :
*Any frozen meat or fish is properly thawed before you cook it (unless it states otherwise on the packaging)
*The barbecue coals have a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they’re hot enough.
*You turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to cook it evenly, ensuring that you use separate tongs or BBQ tools for raw and cooked foods .
*Before eating make sure the meat is piping hot in the centre – sausages, burgers, pork and poultry should be cooked until any juices run clear.
And REMEMBER – Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after touching raw meat and before eating.

The Food Standards Agency has published a leaflet titled ‘Beat the Barbecue Bugs’ and if you want to test your ‘safe outside cooking knowledge’ there is a BBQ quiz on their website. Their top tips for safety when barbecuing are:

*When choosing a barbecue ensure it is strong and sturdy
*If you are reusing an existing one make sure it’s in good condition and check for loose or damaged parts that may need adjustment or repair
*Barbecues should be placed on level ground, away from fences, sheds and overhanging trees or anything which may catch fire.
*Avoid anywhere windy which may blow the flames
*NEVER light one in an enclosed space
*NEVER leave children unsupervised near a barbecue
*Avoid wearing loose, flowing clothes and tie long hair back
*Keep at least one bucket of water nearby – just in case there is a problem.
*Prepare the barbecue early to ensure it is at the right temperature by the time you want to cook.
*Only use recommended fluids or fire lighters when starting a barbecue.
*Never pour petrol, methylated spirits or any other accelerants on to it.
*Remember that the metal parts of a barbecue can become hot – don’t try to move it until it has cooled down.
*Ensure it is fully extinguished before you leave it.
*When getting rid of a disposable barbecue, or barbecue coals, check they have cooled down before putting them in a bin.
*If you have a gas barbecue take extra care when changing the gas cylinders.

Useful links
http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/webpage/barbecue_bug_leaflets
http://www.food.gov.uk/bbquiz

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