Cook up food not bacteria
What better way to enjoy summer than to eat outdoors? Before you fire up the barbecue and whip up a salad, take a minute to ensure you, your friends and family will be safe from the misery of food poisoning.
Every year lots of New Zealanders get foodborne illnesses and many are caused by unsafe food handling practices in the home.
“Whether you go on a picnic, barbecue or camping trip— you’ll be taking your food out of the fridge or freezer. As soon as the temperature of the food begins to rise, bacteria in the food can multiply and this could be a risk,” says medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack. “Unless perishable food is handled properly, it can cause problems so keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD— or don’t keep it at all.”
Cleaned the barbecue since last summer? Adirty barbecue is a haven for pests which love to spread bacteria so make sure it has been cleaned before you use it. Your hands and any utensils also need to be cleaned thoroughly (wash for 20 seconds, dry for 20 seconds) before and after preparing food.
“Cross contamination from raw to cooked foods is one of the biggest risks,” says Dr Shoemack. “Be careful with knives, cutting boards, hands— anything used for raw and cooked foods and clean them thoroughly when moving from raw to cooked foods.”
Preferably use different chopping boards formeat and other food.
The golden rule for barbecues is that perishable foods should always be refrigerated until needed, which means removing food from the fridge or chilly bin only when you are ready to cook it. Also remember to ensure food is not packed into a chilly bin while it’s still warm— food cannot cool quickly enough in a chilly bin to prevent bacteria growing.
“When cooking, always make sure chicken, pork, sausages and minced products like hamburger patties are cooked until the juices run clear— there should be no hint of pink. It can be better to pre-cook these foods,” he says. “When taking foods off the barbecue, use a clean plate, not the plate which held the raw meat. Also, introduce variety and healthier choices for your family and friends with the addition of options such as barbecued sweet corn, vegetarian kebabs, grilled eggplant or zucchini.” It’s simple— clean, cook, cover, chill. Visit www.mpi.govt.nz/nzfoodsafety.
Hmmm . . . barbecue food. But make sure the barbecue itself is clean.