IT'S summertime and the living is easy, but as temperatures soar so too do incidents of food poisoning.
Figures reveal that in 2002 alone, 1053 Greater Glasgow residents were struck down by types of food poisoning ranging from campylobacter, which can cause stomach cramps, diarrhoea and fever for a week, to Ecoli O157 which causes vomiting and often blood-filled diarrhoea.
Not exactly the sizzling summer we have in mind, is it?
Dr Syed Ahmed, Public Health Consultant, explained: "The phrase ‘food poisoning' is a general term that covers accidental poisoning through eating contaminated food."
But how exactly does our food become contaminated?
Dr Ahmed said: "Frightening though it is, we believe it's best to see all raw meat as being contaminated with food poisoning germs until thoroughly cooked.
"It's in the crucial preparation stage that germs can breed. For example, if the raw meat comes into contact with ready-to-eat food such as cold meat slices, salads and deserts, the germs can multiply.
"Similarly, it's important not to reheat food more than once and to ensure it is piping hot throughout. And no matter how hungry the family is it's crucial not to reduce cooking time, especially when microwaving."
Doctors say that anyone can suffer a form of food poisoning, but that older people, infants and those with low immune systems due to illness are most vulnerable.
Dr Ahmed added: "It's important to note that while salmonella symptoms usually appear six to 72 hours after eating, campylobacter can take up to 10 days to reveal itself."
So what are the key precautions to take when setting up a fun family barbecue this summer?
· Carefully defrost before cooking: always ensure meat and poultry is completely thawed. Use the fridge for slow and safe thawing and only use the microwave's defrost setting if food is going to be cooked immediately. Similarly, food can be thawed in sealed packages in cold water. Avoid defrosting on the counter at room temperature.
· Don't use the same utensils for raw and cooked meat. Wash hands well after handling raw meat, as bacteria can contaminate any food that is ready to eat.
· To ensure the barbecue reaches an acceptable heat before cooking commences, wait until the coals become white before spreading them out with tongs and introducing the food.
· Although barbecued meat may look cooked on the outside, it may still be raw. A meat thermometer can ensure food has reached a safe internal temperature. For example, while beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit, whole poultry must hit the 180 mark.
· In hot weather, food should generally sit out for no longer than an hour. If it does, it should be discarded.
· Some studies have revealed a link between increased cancer risk and charring meat. To avoid this, meat can be partly microwaved before being cooked on the barbecue.
For further information, contact:
Caroline Jarvie on 0141 201 4447