How to avoid food poisoning at your World Cup barbecue

It could be a bumper barbecue weekend with hot weather expected for England's World Cup quarter fina

It could be a bumper barbecue weekend with hot weather expected for England's World Cup quarter final with Sweden Picture: thinkstockpictures - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Britain is set to go bonkers for barbecues during the World Cup but for the unwary there could be health risks involved. Sheena Grant finds out how to avoid food poisoning when you light the coals.

If you’re planning to host a barbecue over the next few weeks to celebrate the World Cup, you won’t be alone.

One survey says 12 million people are predicted to invite family, friends and neighbours around for an outdoor meal during the month-long tournament, which kicked off in Russia on Thursday.

According to Kettler, which makes a range of barbecues and patio furniture and commissioned the survey, outdoor dining and entertaining is now the UK’s number one summer home activity with three in four households owning some type of outdoor grill. It says that statistics show we own four times as many barbecues as just 10 years ago.

But one thing that could spoil the party if you don’t take the right food safety precautions is a bout of food poisoning.

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NHS experts reckon there are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning each year in the UK. And it’s particularly common during the summer months, when the number of cases almost doubles.

Health officials in north Norfolk are among those encouraging people to take care when cooking and preparing food for the barbecue this summer.

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They say food poisoning is caused by eating items contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli, or viruses like norovirus. Salmonella is the biggest cause of food poisoning-related hospital admissions.

The North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) advises: “Food poisoning is usually mild, and most people get better within a few days without treatment but there are times when it can be more severe, in the most serious cases resulting in a hospital stay, so it’s important to take the risks seriously. Children, older people, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning.”

Here’s health and wellbeing’s guide to eating safely at your World Cup barbecue and beyond...

It’s all about the preparation

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing food, after touching raw meat and before serving and eating, says North Norfolk CCG.

Raw and cooked meats should always be kept separate from each other, as well as fish, vegetables and ready-to-eat foods such as bread, salad and fruit during preparation. Ready-to-eat foods won’t need to be cooked before you eat them, so any germs that get on to them won’t be killed.

Use different chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods and never wash raw chicken or any other meat - it just splashes germs around.

Cooking up a feast

Unless the cooking instructions say otherwise, always ensure frozen food is fully defrosted before putting it on the barbecue so that it cooks evenly.

If using a charcoal barbecue, make sure the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they’re hot enough. Remember that it will take longer to cook your food if you are using a disposable barbecue.

According to Ufford Park Hotel, near Woodbridge, if there’s one aspect of barbecue technique that most people need to change it’s the length of time allowed for pre-heating. “If you usually start cooking five minutes after lighting the charcoal, this could be one of the main reasons why your meats aren’t cooking properly,” they say. “After lighting, leave the barbecue for around half an hour before you start cooking. This allows time for the temperature to normalise and the coals to become white hot.”

The hotel also advises that when using a marinade for raw meats, never re-use it on cooked meats. You should also use different tongs and plates for raw and cooked meats.

Most types of meat – including sausages, burgers and chicken – are only safe to eat when the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part, and any juices run clear, says North Norfolk CCG. The safest option is to fully cook your food in the oven and then put the cooked food on the barbecue for a short time to let the flavour develop.

Don’t leave out the leftovers

When the weather is warm, avoid eating any food which has been left outside for more than an hour.

For more information on barbecue food safety, visit

Meat’s not the only option

Vegetarian barbecues can be delicious, healthy and may pose less of a food poisoning risk. What’s more, you can be more adventurous than just slapping a shop-bought veggie burger on the grill.

Here are a few suggestions to try:

Halloumi: this robust cheese with a salty taste and meaty texture keeps it shape when heated and is delicious barbecued.

Tofu: this healthy soya protein contains essential amino acids and is an excellent source of iron and calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1, among other vitamins and minerals. Press before grilling and marinate in soy or a barbecue sauce, which will add flavour.

Other veggie options that are healthy and great to grill are field mushrooms, aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes.

You could serve them in a bread roll or marinate and combine on a skewer for a tasty kebab.

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