FSA’s top tips on your Bank Holiday barbecue

To assist people in having a successful and safe barbecue this August Bank Holiday weekend, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed its top tips on cooking meat. 

Using its Food & You survey as a foundation, the agency claimed there was an education gap between people’s knowledge around the importance of thoroughly cooking meat.

1)    Pre-cook
The FSA suggested that pork and chicken are cooked in the oven before finishing them on the barbecue to still achieve the chargrilled feel. This can also be done with sausages, burgers and kebabs.

2)    Charred on the outside doesn’t always mean cooked on the inside
Cut the meat open to check it is cooked through prior to consuming. Regularly turning the meat whilst it is cooking will ensure that it is cooked evenly. If you are unsure, then keep on cooking. Most types of meat are only safe for consumption when:
•    The meat is steaming hot throughout
•    There is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part
•    Any juices run clear

3)    Remember that disposable barbecues take longer to warm up and cook food
Do not overload the barbecue and always ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked throughout.

4)    Avoid cross contamination by storing raw meat separately before cooking
The FSA said that when cooking different types of meat, make sure different utensils, plates and chopping boards are used for raw and cooked meats. Always ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them before handling food.

5)    Keep plates and cutlery away from raw meat and fish
A marinade should also never be reused on raw meat, unless it has been thoroughly cooked beforehand. Otherwise, it will only be bugs that are served.

6)    Keep cold foods below 5 °C and hot foods above 63 °C
Also, do not leave food usually refrigerated standing around in the warm before serving.

The advice comes after the FSA’s research showed that not all consumers understand the health aspects of a successful barbecue. It found that 19% of surveyed people admit to eating burgers that are pink or have prink/red juices.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, it was found that half of the people have been served undercooked meat at a barbecue, which could contribute towards the one million cases of food poisoning every year.

Despite 44% of the Northern Irish population worrying about barbecue hygiene, 43% said they fail to check there is no pink meat inside before serving and 52% don’t check the juices run clear whilst 80% admitted to not checking the food is steaming hot prior to serving.

According to the FSA, cases of food poisoning including campylobacter, E. coli, listeria and salmonella rise in the summer months. The agency said that a rare beef burger is three times more likely to contain harmful E. coli bacteria than a well-cooked one.

“When you’re at a barbecue, remember that most types of meat should be cooked thoroughly to prevent food poisoning,” said Heather Hancock, chair of the FSA board.

“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.”

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