NOW that the sun is finally here, Wirral health advisers are urging people to be careful when cooking food on a barbecue.
As people take advantage of the sunny weather, barbecues become a popular way of cooking and socialising. But people need to remember to cook safely and continue to follow good food hygiene practice to prevent themselves and their guests from experiencing unwanted post-event sickness and diarrhoea.
Food poisoning is the common name given to gastro-intestinal infections caused by eating or drinking something contaminated by micro-organisms or germs, or by toxic substances produced by these germs. It’s common year-round, however, cases can double over the summer when less care may be taken over food hygiene during outdoor cooking and food preparation.
If you are cooking on a barbecue, the two main risk factors are undercooked meat and spreading germs from raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat.
Fiona Johnstone, Wirral’s Director of Public Health, said: “The safest option is to cook food indoors using your oven. You can then put the cooked food on the barbecue for flavour – but make sure it is piping hot all the way through. This can also be an easier option if you're cooking for a lot of people at the same time.
“Don’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside it will be cooked properly on the inside. Cut the meat at the thickest part to make sure it isn’t pink on the inside.
“You also need to remember to keep some foods cool to prevent food-poisoning germs multiplying, so don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.”
Most people with food poisoning will get better without the need for treatment. In the meantime, you can relieve the symptoms of food poisoning by drinking plenty of fluids; eating easily digested food, such as toast, until you feel better; and resting.
Fiona said: “If you do become ill, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration – this is particularly important for young children, older people and if you have another illness. Anyone who falls into one of these groups may need rehydration salts, which are available from pharmacies.
“Remember, staff in your local pharmacy will be able to give you expert advice on upset stomachs, and a range of other common complaints.”
Pharmacy staff are working with the NHS to help people to use the right health service first time, as part of the Choose Well campaign. Health leaders believe more than 51 million people a year who visit their GP with common complaints could either care for themselves or visit their local pharmacy or walk-in centre for help.
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© Wirral Primary Care Trust 2013