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Saturday, 18 April 2015

BBQ Season: Safe food handling tips to prevent foodborne illness

BBQ Food Safety Tips 

Summer is here soon and many people are thrilled to be cooking outdoor again.  In the weekend, just take in the smell of burgers, grill chicken, jerk pork and chicken, steaks, fish cooking and grilling in backyards, parks and camp sites. Grilling or cooking outdoor is a fun way to prepare and serve food, but can also be a means for pathogens to cause food-borne illness if care is not taken on how the food is handled. So there is no reason to forget food safety while you are in the great outdoor.


1. Safety and injury prevention

Before starting the BBQ, weather it is a charcoal or gas unit, just remember anytime you
work with fire, there is always a risk of getting seriously burned. First, you need to do some maintenance in order to ensure the BBQ is in good working condition BBQ safety check - GlobalNews and to avoid injuries. 

Also check the condition of the wire cleaning brush before each use and get rid of old brushes that are worn and with loose wire bristles or bristles start to stick to the grill (photo - right). It is important to keep the BBQ grill clean and free  

of debris but be very careful using wire brushes for cleaning BBQ as it is dangerous to have a sharp metal bristle lodged in the throat or esophagus that can result in potentially fatal chest infection, or along the digestive tract that in serious incidents, can pierce the bowel. Always use a proper brush (photo - left) or switch to alternatives to using wire grill brushes.

2. BBQ food safety tips

In order to enjoy a healthy BBQ season and avoid food-borne illness, follow the 4-Steps

BBQ food safety tips: Clean-Separate-Cook-Chill

Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling food and after handling raw meat, fish, poultry or touching soiled objects.

Clean all cooking equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces like containers and cutting board, and then sanitize them with a bleach-water solution (5 ml/1 tsp of bleach with 750 ml/3 cups of water).

To prevent cross contamination, keep raw and cooked meats separate during storage, transportation and cooking as pathogens from raw meat can contaminate the cooked meat. 
Keep food covered whenever possible to protect it from contamination, as well as preventing contaminants from insects and birds dropping onto food. (Tip: Use plastic food containers Reusing plastic food containers - photo on left).
Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat, never put cooked food back on the same plate that held raw food.
Don't use leftover marinade that has been in contact with raw meat on cooked food, reserve some marinade for basting. 

Raw meat must be cooked properly to a safe internal temperature to avoid foodborne illness as pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria 
can be killed by heat. Do not judge meat by colour alone as it is not a reliable way to check if meat is safe to eat because meat can turn brown and 'look cooked' before all the bacteria are killed. 

Always check the internal temperature when grilling meat, poultry, and seafood with a digital food thermometer as it is the best and reliable method to ensure food has reached a safe internal cooking temperature. (Tip: Take meat off the grill and place it in a clean plate. For ground meat burgers, always insert the digital food thermometer through the side of the patty to the middle (photo on right). 

Grilling outdoor may not necessary allow heat to distribute evenly, especially when cooking a large or thick cut of meat like poultry, steak, roast or chops. The best and safest way is to insert the digital food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (photo on left) and make sure that the thermometer tip is not touching any bones as they heat up more faster than the meat portion, and could give a false reading. The best food safety message is 'check and double check'.                        

Safe cooking temperature chart

When checking the internal temperature of meat, poultry, and seafood with a food thermometer to ensure food has reached a safe internal cooking temperature as indicated in the Cooking and Reheating Temperatures for Hazardous Foods chart from Toronto Public Health (photo on right).It is important to know what internal temperature the food needs to reach to be safe to eat as safe cooking temperatures vary in different types of foods. Same applies to re-heating cooked meats, use a food thermometer to ensure meat reheated to a safe internal temperature.


Whether you are storing the meat in the refrigerator or a cooler, always remember to keep food out of the temperature Danger Zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F).
Bacteria can grow fast in this temperature range and as little as two hours in this temperature range, cooked food can become dangerously loaded with bacteria increasing the risk of food-bourne illness. 

If you are in a park or camp site, storing  meat in a cooler and make sure that the cooler is kept cold with ice, ice packs or dry ice. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often in order to keep the cold air inside.

Temperature control

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Remember to keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). 

3. Other food safety tips

Use a clean utensils to remove cooked food from the grill and place in clean plates, never
put cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat to prevents post-contaminated by raw meat juices.


Cool food by using shallow containers as it cools quickly and put them in the cooler or refrigerator. Discard any food left out at room temperature (Danger Zone) for more than 
two hours, however, on hot summer days, avoid keeping food out for more than one hour. 

       When in doubt, throw it out!

BBQ Food Safety Youtube Video 
(Health Inspector's Notebook) 


Animation, graphic and video by Chris Chan of Website for Jim Chan


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