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The Health Risks Of Barbecuing

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The Health Risks Of Barbecuing

  1. 1. The Health Risks of BarbecuingBarbecuing is a popular way to cook and is enjoyed the world over. But, along with thefantastic simplicity and back to nature feel of cooking over a flame, there are a number ofhealth risks to consider in regards to BBQs. Knowing what they are and how to avoid themmeans that these risks shouldn’t spoil your fun…Food PoisoningFood poisoning tends to be mild and most people will get over it within a few days. Butsometimes it can be severe and you’ll need to take precautions in order to avoid it. Bugssuch as E.coli 0157, salmonella and campylobacter can cause serious illness.The biggest risk of food poisoning is from raw and undercooked meat, and spreading germsfrom raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat. Those most at risk are children, older peopleand those with weakened immune systems.Cooking barbecue meat properly without turning it into charcoal is the difficulty faced by allbarbecuers. But, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you serve up safe,tasty food.According to the Food Standard’s Agency, “the safest option is to cook food indoors usingyour oven. You can then put the cooked food outside on the barbecue for flavour. “This can be a very useful way of catering for lots of people and will nip those nasty germs inthe bud.Once outside, follow these tips:Preparing the Food  Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. This is common sense but is absolutely essential when handling raw meat  Make sure frozen meat is properly thawed before you begin to cook it  Take precautions to avoid cross-contaminationAvoiding Cross-ContaminationCross-contamination occurs when raw meat germs get onto your hands and are then passedonto food that is cooked or ready to eat. It can happen when raw meat comes into contactwith plates, tongs, cutlery, chopping boards and so on, that are then used for cooked foods.If raw meat touches or the juices drip onto food that is already cooked, bugs can be spreadonto that food.The best ways to avoid cross-contamination are:  Wash your hands after touching raw meat. If you are outside, you may not want to keep going inside to wash them, so take anti-bacterial soap and some water out with you, or use an outside tap near the barbeque  Always use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw meat
  2. 2.  Don’t put raw meat beside cooked or even partly-cooked meats on plates or on the barbecue  Keep raw meat away from other food such as bread, salads, relishes etc. Sealed tubs are useful for thisPreparing the Barbecue  Make sure the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking on BBQsChecking that Food is Cooked  Move the meat around the barbecue and turn it regularly to make sure it is cooked evenly  Cut the meat in the thickest part to ensure that it is not pink inside  Some meat, such as steaks and lamb, can be served slightly pink but make sure they’re properly cooked on the outside. Meats such as burgers and sausages that are made from minced meat must not be pink inside  Make sure the meat juices run clear  Check the meat is piping hot in the middleCold Food ItemsBarbecues are usually held when it is gloriously sunny, but this can also lead to the risk offood poisoning from foods that need to be kept cool. Items such as yoghurt, cream, dips,salads, ham, rice and sandwiches should all be kept cool.  Don’t leave cool food items in direct sunshine  Don’t leave them out of the fridge for more than 2 hoursFire safetyAside from the risk of food poisoning, barbecues can throw up the question of fire safety.Guidance from the Fire Service suggests the following precautions:  Make sure your barbecue is steady on a level surface, away from plants and trees  Cover the bottom of your barbecue with coal to a depth of no more than 5cm (2in)  Use only recognised firelighters or starter fuel, and then only on cold coals  Never use petrol on barbeques
  3. 3. Barbecues and CarcinogensThere has been some research regarding barbecues and their link to cancer-causingproperties. Evidence has been produced that suggests that when meat is cooked at hightemperatures, amino acids react with creatine to form heterocyclic amines, which can causecancer.In light of these findings, the Harvard Health Letter, along with other recognized healthprofessionals, released some guidelines to help make barbecuing safer:  Choose leaner cuts of meat  Precook meat in the microwave – pre-cooking for two minutes decreases the amines  Cook smaller pieces – they’ll cook more quickly and reduce risk  Turn the meat regularly  Remove charred meat before eating  Marinade the meat – some research suggests that marinades can act as a shield against the carcinogenic propertiesAnd Finally…Despite the health risks outlined above, a barbecue is a terrific way to serve your food, it ishugely popular around the world and has been enjoyed since man first discovered cookingover fire. Follow the precautions and have a great time…

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