Food Standards Agency
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Have a sizzling and safe barbecue

With the UK having enjoyed a sunny summer, barbecues have been firmly on the menu. The approaching summer bank holiday weekend signifies the end of the holidays for many of us before we return to work or school. It’s no surprise then that over half of us (54%) are planning to take advantage of what might be the last barbecue of the season.

Barbecue habits

However, the Food Standards Agency is encouraging the nation’s barbecue enthusiasts to ensure food safety standards don’t slip when cooking outside, as it’s revealed that more than nine in 10 people have at least one habit at the barbecue which risks their health and that of their guests. What’s more, one in five people (21%) believe they’ve been ill due to something they’ve eaten at a barbecue.

A survey* carried out in July 2014 found that a quarter (24%) of those who describe themselves as the main cook at a barbecue do not usually cook at home. The survey also revealed that over half of men (56%) admit they are the main cook at the barbecue, compared to just 21% of women.

The survey highlighted that many people are overlooking basic food safety measures that could help protect them from the risks of cross-contamination, including contracting campylobacter, which causes food poisoning in an estimated 280,000 people per year. Nearly one in five people (19%) do not keep raw and cooked food on separate plates when cooking at a barbecue, 21% do not wash their hands with soap after handling raw meat, and nearly half (47%) don’t keep food chilled until just before use. Just over half (51%) risk cross-contaminating food by using the same tongs for raw and cooked meats and a huge 94% of us break at least one cardinal rule of food safety.

The food safety risks continue beyond preparation, with almost a third (28%) admitting to not checking that burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through on the barbecue before serving. Slightly more of us (32%) also don’t check that chicken is cooked all the way through, putting guests at risk of contracting food poisoning. Despite this, more than four in 10 (42%) say we are more conscious of food safety at the barbecue compared to what we do in the kitchen – but 13% don’t do anything about it.

Catherine Brown, Chief Executive, Food Standards Agency, commented: 'Food poisoning is a real risk at barbecues and so we are reminding people to take good care of their families and friends by paying attention to simple food safety rules.'

*Survey carried out by Censuswide. 2,030 UK adults were surveyed online between 23 July and 30 July 2014.

Simple tips

The FSA is calling on all barbecue enthusiasts to remember the following simple tips.

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Avoid cross-contamination
You can do this by storing raw meat separately before cooking, and use different utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food. There’s no point in serving up food with a flourish if you’re adding bugs back into the mix.

Don’t wash raw chicken
...or other meat, it just splashes germs.

Pre-cook the meat or poultry in the oven first and then finish it off on the barbecue for flavour.

Charred doesn’t mean cooked
Make sure that burgers, sausages, chicken and all meats are properly cooked by cutting into the meat and checking that it is steaming hot all the way through, that none of it is pink and that any juices run clear.

Disposable BBQs take longer
Always check that your meat is cooked right through.

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