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SUMMER SIZZLES

- Keep Food Safety in Mind When Barbecuing This Summer, Health Unit Advises -

A local health official says an essential ingredient for any barbecue this summer should be food safety.

If meats such as hamburger, chicken or ribs are not properly handled, prepared and cooked on a barbecue, bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella can still be present in the food. This creates a potential health hazard for anyone who eats the contaminated food, says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“If you invite friends or family over to your house and serve them raw or undercooked meat, they can get foodborne illness and become very sick,” he says. “Your barbecue party turns into a memorable occasion for all the wrong reasons.”

Foodborne illness is more common than people think, he adds. Each year, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that roughly one in eight Canadians will get sick due to foodborne illness acquired in this country. Symptoms of foodborne illness include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, people can be hospitalized or die from foodborne illness.

To reduce the risk of illness, the Health Unit encourages a step-by-step approach to safe barbecuing:

  • Buyer beware. Buy only food that comes from an approved source. Never buy uninspected meat, and examine food and its packaging at the store before you buy anything.
  • Travel with care. When shopping, buy your meat last and keep raw meats separate from other foods. If possible, transport meat home in a cooler bag with ice packs during hot weather.
  • Store food right. Keep the fridge at 4ºC (40ºF) or less, and keep the freezer at -18ºC (0ºF) or less.
  • Get off to a clean start. Wash hands, utensils and surfaces with hot soapy water before, during and after preparing foods. Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils with a mild bleach and water solution. Wash all produce thoroughly before preparing, eating or cooking.
  • Make sure it is thawed right. Thaw food in the refrigerator. Thawing food by running it under cold running water or in a microwave oven is also acceptable. Thawing food at room temperature is unsafe since this practice can allow bacteria to grow on food.
  • Properly cook meat on the barbecue. Raw and undercooked meats, especially poultry, are major sources of foodborne illness, so be extra careful. When barbecuing meat, use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. For beef, pork and ground beef, the internal temperature should reach 71ºC (160ºF). The safe internal temperature for chicken and other poultry items is slightly higher at 74 ºC (165ºF) or 82ºC (180ºF) for a whole chicken. Using pre-cooked meat or frozen hamburger is also a safer alternative than barbecuing fresh meat.
  • Remember the two-hour rule. Foods that can spoil cannot be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

For more on barbecuing and food safety, call your local Health Unit office or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.

-30-

For media inquiries, contact:

Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569,

or Christopher Beveridge, Director of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit (905) 885-9100.

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