As folk look to eke out of the last drops of summer, council chiefs in St Helens are urging BBQers to take extra care with food preparation.
An outbreak of e-coli food poisoning has already claimed the lives of two people in the UK this summer, while local, unrelated cases have also been investigated by council Environmental Health officers.
The condition is commonly associated with undercooked meat – often linked to barbecues. But it can also be triggered by eating fruit and vegetables that haven’t been properly washed and even pre-packaged food that has passed its ‘use by’ date.
Sue Forster, interim director of Public Health at St Helens Council, said: “It’s never pleasant having a tummy bug, but e-coli can be life threatening.
“Particularly in warm weather it is important to prepare food safely and ensure meat is thoroughly cooked.”
The Public Health team has issued the following advice to those planning a barbecue:
· Pre-cook - it’s good idea to cook all chicken (including chicken on the bone) in the oven prior to giving it a final ‘finish’ on your barbecue.
· Charred doesn’t mean cooked - cook your barbecue food thoroughly until you are sure that your poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are steaming hot, with no pink meat inside.
· Disposable BBQs - take longer to heat up and to cook food. Always check that your meat is cooked right through before serving.
· 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 hot water and dry them before handling your food.
· Don’t wash raw chicken or other meat - it just splashes germs. Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter. Washing chicken, or other meat, can spread dangerous bugs on to your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops by splashing.
· Keep plates and cutlery away from raw meat and fish - never serve your guests cooked food on a plate or surface that’s had raw meat or fish on it, and don’t use cutlery or marinades that have been in contact with raw meat.
· Store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge – where it can’t touch other foods or drip onto them.
· Keep your fridge set below 5C – by keeping food cold you stop food poisoning bugs growing.
· Wash all fruit and vegetables – it’s myth that a little bit of dirt doesn’t do you any harm. Soil can sometimes carry harmful bacteria, including e-coli.