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Think before you barbeque this summer, UC food expert warns

Think before you barbeque this summer, UC food expert warns

During summer nightly barbeques are in hot demand.

But before people get down to some serious barbequing, University of Canterbury food safety expert Professor Ian Shaw says they should think about avoiding exposure to risky food.

``A little bit of forethought will reduce the risk of a jippy tummy, or worse, this summer. Meat is often contaminated with bacteria originating from animal intestines. These bacteria are killed by cooking, but if meat is not cooked properly the bacteria might survive and might then cause gastric upset.

``There are two bacteria particularly relevant to our penchant for barbequing, namely campylobacter and E. coli 0157. Campylobacter occurs particularly on chicken. It is very easily killed by cooking and by freezing because it is a fickle organism that can’t stand extremes of temperature or drying. So, cooking your chicken on the barbeque will certainly kill this nasty little creature.

``However, cross contamination from infected chicken to other food is very easy to achieve. If you handle raw chicken and then handle food that you will eat raw – such as salad - you might transfer campylobacter to the raw food and infect the unfortunate consumer of the food. So wash your hands well with warm soapy water when you have handled raw chicken.

``Also, if you pick up a piece of raw chicken with barbeque tongs then cook the chicken on the barby, the heat of the barbeque will kill the campylobacter on the chicken, but it might still be lurking on the tongs.

``So when you serve the chicken with the same tongs you might re-infect the chicken with campylobacter. I always balance my barbeque tongs above the heat of the barbeque to make sure I’ve killed the campylobacter.’’

Professor Shaw says E. coli is a bacterium naturally present in human and animal intestines, but a virulent strain (0157) makes a potent toxin that causes gastroenteritis. E. coli 0157 could be present on any meat, but red meat is the most risky. It is present only on the outside of the meat because it gets there by contamination during the slaughter process.

``E. coli is killed by cooking. However, if you mince meat - such as beef for patties - what was once the outside of the meat might become the inside of the patty and if the temperature during cooking is not great enough (70°Cdeg) the E. coli will survive to infect its consumer.

``So, make sure you cook your patties and any other meat product made from mince well. This means that the inside should not be pink – pink means that the temperature did not reach 70°Cdeg,’’ Professor Shaw says.


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