Taking the barb out of the barbeque this summer

What better way to enjoy summer than to eat outdoors? Before you lay those kebabs on the barbeque and whip up a salad – take a minute to ensure you, your friends and family will be safe from the misery of food poisoning.

Every year lots of New Zealanders get foodborne illnesses and many are caused by unsafe food handling practices in the home.

“Whether you go on a picnic, barbeque or camping trip – you’ll be taking your food out of the fridge or freezer. As soon as the temperature of the food begins to rise, bacteria in the food can multiply and this could be a risk,” says Medical Officer of Health for Toi Te Ora Public Health, Dr Phil Shoemack. “Unless perishable food is handled properly, it can cause problems so keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD – or don’t keep it at all.”

Cleaned the barbeque since last summer? A dirty barbeque is a haven for pests which love to spread bacteria so make sure it has been cleaned before you use it. Your hands and any utensils also need to be cleaned thoroughly (wash for 20 seconds, dry for 20 seconds) before and after preparing food.

“Cross contamination from raw to cooked foods is one of the biggest risks,” says Dr Shoemack. “Be careful with knives, cutting boards, hands – anything used for raw and cooked foods and clean them thoroughly when moving from raw to cooked foods.”  Preferably use different chopping boards for meat and other food.

The golden rule for barbeques is that perishable foods should always be refrigerated until needed, which means removing food from the fridge or chilly bin only when you are ready to cook it on the barbeque. Also remember to ensure food is not packed into a chilly bin while it’s still warm - food cannot cool quickly enough in a chilly bin to prevent bacteria growing.

“When cooking, always make sure chicken, pork, sausages and minced products like hamburger patties are cooked until the juices run clear – there should be no hint of pink. It can be better to pre-cook these foods and any frozen meat must be thoroughly thawed prior to cooking” he says. “When taking foods off the barbeque, use a clean plate, not the plate which held the raw meat.”

It’s easy – Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill. For more information on how to prepare food safely, go to www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety-home

Image: Clean, cook, cover, chill to avoid foodborne illness this summer