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Grub to go with a bang and not a whimper.

Byline: Mark Smith

Serving up a sizzling barbecue in a sun-drenched garden is one of the most enjoyable summer treats. So the last thing anyone wants is for swathes of guests to be struck down with food poisoning. Here, Mark Smith talks to the Food Standards Agency to find out their top tips on how to create a safe summer menu

Cases of food poisoning almost double during the summer season, due to the popularity of barbecued food.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) claims the undercooking of raw meat and the contamination by bacteria of the food we eat are the main causes of bacterial bugs.

And sometimes the risks can be more severe, even deadly, so it's important to take the risks seriously.

The FSA says more than nine in 10 people have at least one habit at the barbecue which risks their health and that of their guests.

What's more, one in five people (21%) believe they've been ill due to something they've eaten at a barbecue.

A survey carried out in July 2014 found that many are overlooking basic food safety measures that could help protect them from the risks of crosscontamination, including contracting campylobacter, which causes food poisoning in an estimated 280,000 people per year.

Nearly one in five people (19%) do not keep raw and cooked food on separate plates when cooking at a barbecue, 21% do not wash their hands with soap after handling raw meat, and nearly half (47%) don't keep food chilled until just before use.

Nina Purcell, director of the Food Standards Agency in Wales, said: "Most of us enjoy barbecues and in this country we don't often get the weather to enjoy them.

"If you're planning a barbecue, don't let food poisoning bugs ruin it for you. There are some really easy steps you can take to avoid being one of the thousands of people who get food poisoning every year."

How can I make sure barbecued food is properly cooked? | Wait until the charcoal is glowing red, with a powdery grey surface, before you start to cook.

Make sure frozen food is properly thawed before you cook it. Turn the food regularly, and move it around the barbecue, to cook it evenly.

Check that the food is piping hot all the way through. Make sure there isn't any pink meat left in poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs, and that any juices run clear.

SIX TIPS FOR A TOP BARBECUE 1. Pre-cook It's a very good idea to cook all chicken (including chicken on the bone) in the oven prior to giving it a final "finish" on your barbecue.

Your friends and family will still experience that special barbecue "scorched" taste - and you will know that you've cooked the chicken all the way through.

This technique can also be used for sausages, burgers and kebabs if you're cooking for large numbers, as you'll want to avoid providing undercooked food.

2. Charred doesn't mean cooked Cook your barbecue food thoroughly until you are sure that your meats are steaming hot, with no pink meat inside.

Turning meat regularly and moving it around the barbecue will help to cook it evenly. Charred on the outside doesn't always mean cooked on the inside. If in doubt - keep cooking.

3. Disposable barbecues take longer to heat up and to cook food.

Always check that your meat is cooked right through before serving.

4. Avoid cross-contamination by storing raw meat separately before cooking Use different utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food.

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and dry them before handling your food for the barbecue, and after handling raw foods including meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Observe good hand hygiene as a matter of course.

5. Don't wash raw chicken or other meat, it just splashes germs. Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter.

6. Keep plates and cutlery away from raw meat and fish Never serve your guests cooked food on a plate or surface that's had raw meat or fish on it, and don't use cutlery or marinades that have been in contact with raw meat.

WHAT IS CAMPYLOBACTER? CAMPYLOBACTER is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

You can't see it, smell it or even taste it, but if you have it in your system you won't forget it in a hurry.

There were 280,000 reports of people suffering from campylobacter poisoning last year in the UK. Most of them survived, but not all.

Campylobacter is estimated to cause more than 100 deaths a year and costs the UK economy PS900m.

How do you get it? The majority of cases of campylobacter poisoning come from contaminated poultry, but it can also be found in other meats.

It is commonly spread by touching raw chicken.

Washing raw chicken can spread campylobacter by splashing it onto work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.

Who can get it? Anyone who is exposed to the bacteria can get ill from it, but children under the age of five and those over 60 are at a greater risk.

How will it affect me? Campylobacter poisoning usually develops a few days after eating contaminated food.

It typically causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. The symptoms can last days, weeks or even months.

And for some unfortunate people, it can affect you forever by sparking off irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reactive arthritis and in rare cases, Guillain-Barre syndrome - a serious and sometimes permanent condition of the nervous system.

What treatment is there? A rehydration solution to combat dehydration (losing water, sugars and minerals through diarrhoea or vomiting) can help. Severe infections are treated with antibiotics.

How can I avoid it? Firstly, avoid washing raw chicken before cooking it. Washing chicken can spread germs around the kitchen by splashing them onto other surfaces and utensils.

It's also important to cover raw chicken and store it at the bottom of the fridge so juices can't drip onto other foods and contaminate them.

Thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken.

And remember to also wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling raw chicken to prevent cross-contamination. Make sure you cook your chicken thoroughly to kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter. Juices must run clear.


If in doubt - keep cooking
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jun 10, 2015
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