Don’t fall foul of the barbie this summer

The arrival of barbecue season is something most of us look forward to, especially here in the UK. This country is, after all, the leading barbecue nation in Europe (according to the organisers of National BBQ Week, we hosted more than 130 million barbecues in 2015, with British families firing up the barbie an average of nine times each summer).

But with cases of food poisoning doubling during the summer months, it’s important to make sure your sizzling sausages don’t give you and your family a serious dose of salmonella (or any other bacteria that cause food poisoning, for that matter). And that means making sure you stick to the rules of food hygiene, especially when it comes to preparing and cooking meat.

So assuming the weather will be on our side this summer, here are some tips on how to keep your barbecue safe:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after every time you touch raw meat and other raw foods such as poultry, fish, eggs and uncooked vegetables, and before serving and eating.
  • Never wash raw chicken or other poultry before cooking, as this increases the risk of spreading campylobacter bacteria (these are the most common cause of food poisoning, according to the NHS).
  • Unless the cooking instructions say otherwise, always ensure that frozen food is defrosted thoroughly before cooking on the barbecue (frozen meat should be properly thawed before cooking).
  • Always keep raw, partly cooked and cooked meats separate and keep uncooked meat, fish and vegetables separate from each other when preparing. Use separate plates, tongs and containers for cooked and raw meat too (ideally keep raw meat in a sealed container away from foods that are ready to eat). Never put cooked or partly cooked food on a plate or surface that’s had raw foods on it.
  • When cooking any kind of meat, make sure the coals on your barbecue are glowing red with a powdery grey surface. According to the Fire Service, you should cover the bottom of your barbecue with no more than 5cm (2in) of coal. Only use recognised firelighters or starter fuel – never petrol – and only use them on coals that are cold.
  • When cooking meat, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly to make sure any germs are killed (remember, barbecued food may look well cooked when it’s not). Turn your burgers, sausages, pork, chicken and kebabs regularly and move them around the barbecue to make sure they are cooked evenly.

Don’t put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the barbecue, and don’t use the same cooking utensils for raw or partly cooked meat and cooked meat to avoid cross-contamination (a common cause of food poisoning).

Check your sausages, burgers, pork and chicken are cooked by using a meat thermometer, or cut into them and check them visually – it should be steaming hot in the centre and there should be no pink meat visible (any juices should also be clear). If necessary, continue grilling until cooked through.

  • Never part cook on a barbecue and finish off later. However you can cook meat in your oven and then finish off on the barbecue for added flavour.
  • Keep salads, dips, dairy products, desserts, sandwiches, cooked meats and cooked rice covered and cool (don’t leave them out in the sun, keep them in the fridge or a cool box for as long as possible – they should never be out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours).
  • In hot weather, throw away barbecued food that’s been left out for more than an hour.

How to treat food poisoning

If you do get a bout of food poisoning, you may feel sick and experience vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Other symptoms can include stomach cramps and pain, low energy levels, loss of appetite, high temperature, aches, pains and chills.

The good news is your symptoms should usually be mild and you should get better within a few days or a week (most people recover at home and don’t need any specific treatment, says the NHS). The most important things to do is rest as much as possible and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

When you feel like eating, have small, frequent meals instead of three main meals, and go for foods that are easily digested such as bananas, plain rice, crackers and toast. Try not to eat spicy or fatty foods, and avoid alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks, until you’re feeling much better.

Some people, such as the elderly, may also need help from oral rehydration salts, which are available from your local Careway pharmacy. Ask your pharmacist for more advice, as oral rehydration salts are not suitable for everyone, including those with a kidney condition. Your pharmacist can also advise you whether or not you should see your GP (people who have a long-term medical condition, for instance, or people over the age of 60 and pregnant women may need further advice if they are affected by food poisoning).

Use our pharmacy finder at to locate your nearest Careway pharmacy today.