BBQ series – Part one: 4 things you can do to avoid food poisoning this summer

Drum roll please…it is finally that time of year again. The proposition of an evening in the great outdoors with friends and family, the realisation that the barbeque you bought last year and neglected throughout winter will sadly not sizzle another sausage and the mad dash to buy your last minute cookout essentials.

We Brits love nothing more than basking in the rare appearance of the sun, devouring a beastly burger and sipping on a crisp beer. But as we do let’s bear in mind that, although we may be dining with the insects, we shouldn’t neglect our own Food Safety.

In 2013, the UK hosted more than 125 million BBQ’s, but as the grills dropped off the shelves, the sickness levels rose. Cases of food poisoning almost double throughout the summer months and research shows that the undercooking of raw meat and bacterial contamination of the food we eat, is among one of the main reasons.

Food Safety is a legal requirement in venues serving the general public, but this good practice should also be applied at home. We’ve served up some advice for you so that you don’t end up in a pickle this summer.

1 – Prioritise Personal Hygiene

At the risk of stating the obvious, personal hygiene is hugely important when handling food. It doesn’t take much for food to be tarnished, but thoroughly washing your hands frequently, before and after touching food, can massively decrease the likelihood of cross-contamination and make it more difficult for diseases and conditions to be spread onto food. Why not keep disposable wipes or a hand sanitiser available next to your cooking station, so it’s handy at all times?

Stay clear of the cooking if you’re unwell, have a known infection or have an open and uncovered wound.

2 – Stock Up Your Chef’s Arsenal

As a general rule, make sure you use different utensils when handling raw food and cooked food to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination. This includes chopping boards, plates, cutlery and those nifty burger flippers. Splashing out on a slightly higher priced BBQ might also be worth the while; some barbeques are designed to have independent cooking platforms, which gives you the ability to cook food safely and transfer cooked meets to a higher grill level to avoid raw juices dribbling onto your safely cooked food.

3 – Prepare Like A Pro

Keep all of your fresh ingredients in the fridge and only bring out once ready to cook, to avoid bacteria thriving and multiplying in the warm temperature. When marinating food, leave the food to marinate in the fridge whilst covered with clingfilm or foil to keep the food fresh and avoid unnecessary heating. Think about how long those skewers bask there in the sun whilst you argue about who the Chief of the barbeque is.

Don’t wash raw meat, although you may think that this will wash away excess bacteria, the truth is this will only splash the nasty germs and contaminate more of the area around you.

Just this week, an E.Coli outbreak has resulted in the death of two people and others needing urgent hospital care. Although Public Health England claim to still be establishing the exact cause, many of those affected by the bug had consumed pre-packed salad. It is believed that the rocket leaves, possibly imported from the Mediterranean, are to blame and PHE have advised a small amount of wholesalers to refrain from adding imported rocket leaves to their salads, until further investigation can confirm the cause.

We urge the importance of washing salad items that are intended to be eaten raw, including any pre-packed salad that is not labelled ‘ready to eat’. According to industry expert Camilla Schneideman, the best technique for washing salad is to submerge items in clean, cold water and then rinse thoroughly before serving. For more on good salad practice, check out the BBC’s news piece on the subject.

And as well as salad preparation, when it comes to using your grill be sure to preheat it for about 15 minutes before cooking to ensure that it reaches the right temperature. Disposable BBQ’s take longer in the heating and the cooking process so you will need to take this into account when monitoring food.

4 – Cook Without Compromise

Barbecuing can deceive us all; although a burger may look ready to eat on the outside, that is not always the case on the inside. To ensure that meat will be thoroughly cooked, it can be pre-cooked in a microwave or oven and then finish it off on the BBQ to reach that smoky flavour. It’s crucial to remember that frozen meat needs to be fully thawed before it reaches the cooking stage.

There are 3 basic guidelines to follow to check whether a piece of meat is fully cooked before consumption. Cut the meat in half at its thickest point and check:

1. The meat is piping hot inside
2. No part of the meat is pink (unless you’re cooking a rare steak)
3. Any juices from the meat run clear

In true restaurant style, you could invest in a meat thermometer so that you can ensure your family and friends will still trust you with their health following the barbeque. All meat, especially chicken, should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 75°C (82°C in Scotland) but the hotter the better!

Now that the basics are covered, go and have yourself a triple stack burger with all the toppings. And as a little extra side dish, here’s a few bonus Shieldyourself hacks you can impress people with:

Bonus BBQ Hacks

• Use a muffin tray to present the condiments
• Use an onion to clean you your BBQ to prevent your meat from sticking.
• Tie a bottle opener to your drinks cooler for easy access
• Place herbs on your grill for a better flavour during the cooking
• Don’t have cooking tongs… use bound chopsticks instead

As the summer continues, we’ll be covering more things you ought to know about BBQ season! Look out for Part 2 in this new series, coming soon. And in the meantime, check out the rest of our blog for more interesting articles, news and tips.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shieldyourself take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shieldyourself services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email

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