Planning a bank holiday BBQ?

Today marks National Burger Day in the UK and, with households across the UK planning to get grilling over the bank holiday weekend, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is issuing top tips on how to ensure your barbecue is safe and enjoyable for all.

The FSA’s Food & You survey has indicated a gap in people’s knowledge around food hygiene and, amongst other things, the importance of cooking meat thoroughly. It found that 19 per cent of people said that they eat burgers that are pink or have pink/red juices.

A snapshot survey, conducted by the FSA, also highlighted that 43 per cent of people have been served undercooked meat at a barbecue, potentially contributing to the 1 million cases of food poisoning every year.

The survey also found that, despite a third of people (33 per cent) saying they worry about food hygiene at barbecues, many admit failing to check the meat in the correct way before serving it; 61 per cent don’t check there is no pink meat inside; 63 per cent don’t check that the juices run clear; and, 84 per cent don’t check that the meat is steaming hot. Over 33 million (51 per cent) people expected to attend or host a barbecue this year and cases of food poisoning from Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella rise in the summer months.

A rare beef burger, for example, is three times more likely to contain harmful E. coli bacteria than a well-cooked burger, which is why burgers should be thoroughly cooked at home, until steaming hot all the way through.

To help ease concerns, the FSA has issued the following tips as part of its Safe Summer Food activity to help everyone enjoy their summer barbecues without worry:

  1. Pre-cook. Consider cooking all chicken and pork in the oven prior to giving it a final ‘finish’ on your barbecue where possible. Your friends and family will still experience that special barbecue ‘chargrilled’ 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.
  2. Charred on the outside doesn’t always mean cooked on the inside. Cut open and check your burgers, sausages and chicken. Turning meat regularly and moving it around on the barbecue will also help to cook it evenly. If in doubt, keep cooking. Remember that most types of meat are safe to eat only when:
    1. the meat is steaming hot throughout
    2. there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part
    3. any juices run clear
  3. Remember disposable barbecues take longer to heat up and to cook food. Don’t overload the barbecue and always check that your meat is cooked thoroughly.
  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 water and dry them before and after handling food.
  5. Keep plates and cutlery away from raw meat and fish. And never reuse a marinade used on raw meat, unless you give it a thorough cook first. You’ll only be serving up bugs along with that extra flavour to your guests.
  6. Keep cold foods below 5°C and hot foods above 63°C. And don’t leave food that you would store refrigerated standing around in the warm before serving.

Heather Hancock, Chair of the FSA Board, said: “When you’re at a barbecue, remember that most types of meat should be cooked thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. A beef burger, for example, isn’t like a steak – it has bacteria present throughout. To make it safe to eat when prepared at home, it must be cooked through. Some restaurants are able to offer their customers burgers less than thoroughly cooked, but only because they have strict controls in place that are regulated and checked by enforcement officers.”

For more information, visit the FSA website.