Health matters

Hale and Hearty: Public Health Specialist for NHS Derbyshire County Julie Hirst.
Hale and Hearty: Public Health Specialist for NHS Derbyshire County Julie Hirst.
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As we continue our series of regular health columns by NHS Derbyshire County, Julie Hirst, public health specialist for the trust, including Buxton and the High Peak looks at the problems associated with a barbecue summer.

Some weather forecasters are predicting Derbyshire could be in for a barbecue summer this year. We’ll have to see if they are proved right but before we all start giving our sausages and burgers a good grilling, it’s important that we take food hygiene as seriously outdoors as we do indoors.

Food poisoning cases double over the summer and barbecues can often be the cause. If cooking only on the barbecue, the two main risk factors are undercooked meat and spreading germs from raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat. This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter. However, these germs can be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout.

Make sure your food is properly cooked. The barbecue should be good and hot before starting, or your food may not cook properly. If you’re using meat from the freezer, it’s especially important to make sure all food, but especially chicken, is cooked all the way through. If there’s any pink meat or the juices have any pink or red in them, germs could be lurking. Make sure food is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Always wash your hands, especially before handling food and before eating.

The safest option is to cook food indoors using your oven. You can then put the cooked food outside on the barbecue for flavour. This can be an easier option if you’re cooking for a lot of people at the same time. Especially don’t cook roasts or larger joints of meat on a barbecue because they won’t cook thoroughly: prepare those in an oven. Barbecues are for small portions only.

Just as important is avoiding cross-contamination. To prevent bacteria spreading between foods and from contaminated surfaces or utensils, cover raw meat before storage and store it at the bottom of the fridge, below and away from ready-to-eat food.

Never use the same chopping board for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods unless the board and knife have been thoroughly washed in between. Don’t butter or eat bread or pick at salads after handling raw meat unless you have thoroughly washed your hands in between.

Food that needs to be chilled should be kept in a fridge at between 0C and 5C. Make sure you don’t take food out of the fridge until the last minute and use a cool bag to keep it chilled.

By following these simple steps we can all make sure we enjoy a barbecue summer to the full. All we need now is for those weather experts to get it right!

For further information about barbecue safety visit http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/