Food safety at home
Food poisoning from cooked foods often occurs as a result of cross contamination from raw foods. More information can be found on Food Standards Agency: Barbecues How to prepare food correctly, avoid contamination and cook food properly for your barbecues.
Barbecuing food safely advice
Summer is a time for enjoying barbecues - however, it is also a time when the risk of food poisoning increases - so follow some simple steps to stay safe.
When you're barbecuing, the biggest risk of food poisoning is from raw and undercooked meat, such as chicken, burgers, sausages and kebabs.
If you're barbecuing for lots of people, it may be simplest to cook the meat indoors and then just finish it off on the barbecue for added flavour.
- Always make sure that food is piping hot all the way through when you reheat items on the barbecue
- Wait until the charcoal is glowing red, with a powdery grey surface, before you start to cook.
- Make sure frozen food is properly thawed before you start to cook it
- Turn the food regularly and move it around the barbecue to cook it evenly
- Check that the centre of the food is piping hot
- Don't assume that if the meat is charred on the outside that it will be cooked properly on the inside - check the meat is not showing pink and any juices are running clear
- Keep any raw meat away from ready to eat food
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat
- Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meats
- Never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has been used for raw meat
- Keep raw meat in a sealed container away from ready to eat foods, such as burger buns and salads.
- Don't put raw meat products next to cooked or partially cooked meat on the barbecue
- Don't add sauce or marinade to cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat
The question of storage facilities in school premises for children's lunch boxes should be given due consideration. As packed lunches are often made in advance, sometimes by several hours, and as they frequently include high-risk food items, such as meat, poultry, dairy products, etc., the potential dangers from food poisoning are real.
Head teachers can play an important part, particularly on warm days when higher temperatures create a greater need for careful preparation and storage of food.
Firstly, parents can be given helpful advice and guidance on packed lunch safety, which can be circulated to via school newsletter and bulletin boards.
Secondly, the storage facilities at schools should be examined to see if they can be improved. The following guidelines should be considered when deciding whether the present storage conditions in your school are suitable.
- Store lunch boxes away from heat sources, such as pipe work, radiators and air ducts.
- Store lunch boxes in cool, well-ventilated areas.
- Keep lunch boxes out of direct sunlight.
- Ensure that lunch boxes are stacked so that air can circulate freely between them.
- Encourage parents to use insulated cool boxes or bags and/or frozen inserts.
- Consider fund-raising to provide classroom or dining-room refrigerators.
Many manufacturers, mail order companies and retailers supply small frozen inserts for use in children's lunch boxes and may welcome bulk orders from schools.
Meat preparation and cooking advice
- Clean and disinfect the raw meat preparation area before you start. This area must be separate from any area in which cooked meat is handled. A detergent solution should be used to clean surfaces before they are disinfected.
- Raw meat, including poultry, can contain harmful bacteria that can spread easily to anything it touches, including food, worktops, tables, chopping boards, and knives.
- Take particular care to keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat foods such as bread, salad and fruit. These foods will not be cooked before you eat them, so any germs that get on to them will not be killed.
- Find out Food Standards Agency: why you should never wash raw chicken.
- To ensure good food hygiene always:
- use different chopping boards fro raw and ready-to-eat foods.
- store raw meat and fish in a sealed container on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
- Wash your hands before and after handling the raw meat.
- Cooking food at the right temperature will kill any harmful bacteria. Check that food's steaming hot throughout before you eat it.
- These foods need to be cooked thoroughly before eating:
offal, including liver
rolled joints of meat
- Burgers and sausages
When cooking burgers, sausages, chicken and pork, cut into the middle to check that the meat's no longer pink, the juices run clear and it's steaming hot throughout.
When cooking a whole chicken or bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between the drumstick and the thigh) to check there's no pink meat and the juices are no longer pink or red.
Pork joints and rolled joints should not be eaten pink or rare. To check when these types of joint are ready to eat, put a skewer into the centre of the meat and check there's no pink meat and the juices run clear.
- Beef and lamb
It's safe to serve steak and other whole cuts of beef and lamb rare (not cooked in the middle) or blue (seared on the outside) as long as they have been properly sealed by cooking.
The cooked product should be cooled as quickly as possible in order to prevent the growth of food poisoning bacteria, and then kept under refrigeration. Remember the smaller the joint of meat, the quicker it cools.
- Clean and disinfect the cooked product handling area, which must be separate from any area in which raw products are handled.
- Always wash your hands before handling cooked products. All equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after use on cooked foods.
- Never allow raw foods or any other products, used utensil or tool, or surface likely to cause contamination, to come into contact with cooked foods.
- Wash fruit and vegetables under cold running water before you eat them. This helps remove visible dirt and germs that may be on the surface. Peeling or cooking fruit and vegetables can also remove these germs.
- Never use washing-up liquid or other household cleaning products to clean fruit and vegetables. These products are not intended for human consumption and you may accidentally leave.
- Food Standards Agency: How to wash fruit and vegetables
- Acrylamide is a chemical that's created when many foods, particularly starchy foods like potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (over 120C), such as when baking, frying.
- Boiling, steaming and microwave cooking are unlikely to create acrylamide.
- There's evidence to show acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer.
- Food Standards Agency: Acrylamide Information on the risks of acrylamide and how you can reduce the chances of being harmed by it
- Go for gold - aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, root vegetables and bread.
- Check the pack - follow the cooking instructions carefully when frying or oven-heating packaged food products like chips, roast potatoes and parsnips.
- Do not keep raw potatoes in the fridge - storing raw potatoes in the fridge can increase overall acrylamide levels if they're then cooked at high temperatures, such as roasting or frying.
- Eat a varied and balanced diet - while it's not possible to completely avoid risks like acrylamide in food, eating a healthy, balanced diet will help reduce your risk of cancer.
- NHS starchy foods and carbohydrates
Freezer breakdown advice
If your freezer breaks down, you may wonder what to do with the contents.
Double bag all food contents and dispose of it in your normal refuse bin. Alternatively, the contents can be taken to one of our household waste recycling centres.
Before disposing of the contents It is worthwhile checking with your home insurance as some policies cover freezer breakdown.
For your information, our household waste recycling centres do accept large items such as fridges/freezers. If you are unable to dispose of your freezer, our rubbish and recycling service can arrange to collect it for a small charge.