LETTER: Don’t kill yourself with a BBQ

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As the school summer holidays get into full swing, a survey has found that the humble chicken is likely to be in high demand on BBQs in the North-East.

Bangers and burgers have lost out, as 36 per cent of people in the region named chicken as their top pick.

Encouragingly, 24 per cent of people in the North-East said they take extra care when cooking chicken on the BBQ.

However 23 per cent said they never worry about it, despite the fact that over a quarter of a million people fall ill every year due to campylobacter, the bug most often carried on raw poultry.

The poll by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) aims to promote the Chicken Challenge – a campaign to encourage everyone to do their bit to reduce the number of people who get food poisoning from chicken.

Between July and September, there is an approximate 50 per cent increase in cases of campylobacter poisoning. As bacteria grow fastest in warm temperatures, the FSA is asking the public to remind themselves of the little things they can do to keep their families safe.

We all want to serve up a sensational BBQ that also helps keep people safe.

Although it’s great to be spontaneous, it’s safer and easier on the day if you prepare in advance by following simple measures such as pre-cooking chicken in the oven before putting it on the BBQ to ensure it’s cooked through.

Consumers can help avoid the build-up of food poisoning bugs by taking the following simple steps:

1. Pre-cook – it’s a very good idea to cook all chicken in the oven prior to giving it a final finish on your BBQ where possible.

2. Charred doesn’t mean cooked – cook your BBQ food thoroughly until you are sure that your poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are steaming hot, with no pink meat inside.

3. Remember, disposable BBQs 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 BBQ and after handling raw foods including meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.

5. Don’t wash raw chicken or other meat – it can spread dangerous bugs on to your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops.

6. Keep plates and cutlery away from raw meat and fish.

7. Keep cold foods below 8°C and hot foods above 63°C.

8. Cook marinades thoroughly if you intend to use them as a glaze or sauce.

9. If you’re preparing rice beforehand, ensure it is fully cooked – cool and refrigerate it within one-hour of cooking and make sure it is consumed within 24-hours.

Kevin Hargin,

Head of Foodborne Disease at the FSA