Barbecue safety tips

Long weekend when everyone gets grilling

barbecue chicken
Keep safety in mind when grilling meat, in order not to contract a food-borne illness.
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Health Canada's barbecue food safety tips

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Friday, May 18, 2012

The long-weekend is upon us, with many making plans to grill food on the barbie. There's nothing like the smell and taste of planked salmon, burgers, beer-can chicken and saucy ribs.

But the last thing you want to do is make your dinner guests ill, from food-borne illness caused by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Eating undercooked meat and other foods that have come into contact with raw meat can cause food-borne illness. Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, vomiting, fever and diarrhea.

E. coli is one of the leading causes of food poisoning, says Colleen Rand, Regional Manager of Clinical Nutrition - Community for the Winnipeg Health Region. E. coli isn't life-threatening to otherwise healthy people, but it can make people feel ill, and it can be a problem for the very young and the very old.

You can help lower your risk by handling and cooking raw meat carefully. Rand says there are three important rules to ensure you have a food-borne illness free summer:

  • Keep food at the right temperature so microorganisms don't grow at a fast rate. Proper food storage prior to cooking and serving will help reduce the risks. Keep dairy and fresh foods like salad cool until they're ready to be consumed. "It's a short period before it can start to go bad (if left outside in warm weather)." This is especially important advice for items containing eggs, like mayonnaise. "Do not let that sit in the heat at all. Eat them from your cooler and keep them there with the ice packs," says Rand.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate. Raw meat contains bacteria like salmonella and E. coli that can make people ill. Ensure raw meat does not contaminate already cooked or raw consumables like vegatables and fruit. Meat must be cooked long enough to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Cooking temperatures vary, but to be on the safe side, the internal temperature of a piece of meat should be 71 C (160 F) for ground beef; 85 C (185 F) for whole poultry and 74 C (165 F) for leftover food. Ensure that cross-contamination doesn't occur during the cooking process.
  • Wash your hands and utensils after handling anything that's touched raw food.

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