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Bank holiday barbecuers warned over food safety

Food Standards Agency says 94 per cent of people are put at risk over poor hygiene

Nothing says August bank holiday quite like the threat of food poisoning – or so hygiene officials have warned.

As the long weekend approaches, many families around Britain will be looking forward to sharing a plate of burgers and chicken wings with friends.

According to research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), 94 per cent of Britons are putting themselves and their guests at risk with their poor barbecue hygiene. Those burgers are too often half-cooked and the chicken too often is left pink.

A poll conducted by the agency also found that one in five people believe they have been ill due to something they’ve eaten as a result of bad barbecuing.

In an attempt to prevent post-sausage spewing, Britons are now being advised to forgo the charcoal, at least at the start, by cooking their food in the oven first before placing it on the barbecue.

The survey found that 24 per cent of those who describe themselves as the main cook at a barbecue do not usually cook at home, with many men keen to don aprons and prove they can master the art of cooking meat over a flame.

The survey also found that 19 per cent of barbecue cooks do not keep raw and cooked food on separate plates, 21 per cent do not wash their hands with soap after handling raw meat and almost half do not keep food chilled until just before they put it on the barbecue. A further 51 per cent of people risk cross-contaminating food by using the same tongs for raw and cooked meats.

Almost a third of those surveyed admitted to not checking that burgers and sausages were cooked all the way through and 32 per cent don’t check that chicken is thoroughly cooked.

“Food poisoning is a real risk at barbecues,” Catherine Brown, the FSA’s chief executive, said. “We are reminding people to take good care of their families and friends by paying attention to simple food-safety rules.” To avoid illnesses such as campylobacter, which causes food poisoning in an estimated 280,000 people each year, the FSA has suggested people pre-cook their meat and poultry before finishing it off on the barbecue for that authentic smoky flavour.

Barbecue enthusiasts might claim cooking the meat in an oven beforehand takes the fun out of cooking it over an open flame but the agency warned that “charred doesn’t mean cooked” and that meat should be piping hot all the way through, not pink, with any juices running clear.