Having a barbecue in Coleraine? Sizzle your summer sausages safely

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WHETHER you’re the type of person who braves the rain to enjoy a barbecue or prefer to wait for better weather, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding Coleraine fans of cooking al fresco about barbecue food safety.

When relaxing with friends and family around the barbecue it is easy to forget about food safety, but just because it is outside the kitchen does not mean that good hand hygiene and food safety advice do not apply.

Dr Louise Herron, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “Bacteria on or in food are usually the underlying cause of food poisoning, which is an illness that occurs after eating or handling contaminated food or liquid. That is why there is a need for thorough cooking and good hand hygiene.

“Although it is probably furthest from people’s minds when they are enjoying food outdoors, symptoms of food poisoning may include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever, and can sometimes lead to severe illness, so it is vital to exercise good food and hand hygiene when having a barbecue.”

During barbecue season here are some top tips to reduce your risk of food poisoning:

* Ensure that you barbecue meat until it is piping hot – particularly poultry - as this will kill off any bacteria.

* Avoid cross contamination: Keep cooked food away from raw food, keep all cooking preparation surfaces and equipment including barbecues, utensils and chopping boards clean, and don’t use the same chopping board for vegetables and meat.

* Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food and after handling raw meat.

Dr Herron added: “Bacteria can survive in all kinds of environments and can grow and spread rapidly given the opportunity. But you can combat this by cooking meat correctly to kill any bacteria that may be present and using hot water and soap when washing hands and wiping surfaces to eliminate harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of infection.

“We want everyone to take advantage of the good weather when we have it and by following some simple tips while barbecuing, everyone will get to enjoy the summer without food poisoning.”