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Stay safe this summer: What are the most common causes of food poisoning and how can you avoid it?

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Summer is now in full swing and, at last, we have the weather to match. All over the country, BBQs have been dusted down and wheeled out on to patios ready for some al fresco meals and afternoons in sun-drenched gardens. But beware. Cases of food poisoning increase in the warmer weather so make sure you follow our simple tips and stay safe this summer.

Why are there more cases of food poisoning in the summer?

More people are cooking on BBQs in the summer. It’s a common mistake to burn meat on the outside and think it’s cooked all the way through when, in fact, it’s still raw on the inside. While this isn’t necessarily a problem with beef (although burgers must be cooked thoroughly), it is with other food such as poultry, pork and prawns.

There is also a tendency to take food out of the fridge and leave it on the side or, even worse, sitting in the sun, for a period of time before it goes on the BBQ. As raw food warms up it creates the perfect environment for bacteria which causes food poisoning.

Our top food safety tips

  • Make sure food is cooked thoroughly before you eat it.
  • Practise good hygiene – wash your hands and cooking implements before you start.
  • Avoid cross contamination – use separate boards when you’re preparing different foods.
  • Keep food in the fridge until you need to cook it.

Chicken and poultry: As we’ve already mentioned, it’s important to make sure that chicken and other poultry is thoroughly cooked before you eat it. Under-cooked poultry is a major cause of food poisoning. Do not be tempted to wash raw meat before you cook it either.

Fresh fruit and vegetables: This should be thoroughly washed before you eat it, particularly if it’s not being cooked.

Fish and shellfish: Reduce the risk of food poisoning by only eating seafood bought from shops. Keep it in the fridge until you need it and then cook it thoroughly. Shellfish should be cooked until the shell opens. Throw out any shells that don’t open.

Rice: This should be served as soon as it’s cooked and any leftovers should be kept in the fridge. When you’re re-heating rice, make sure it is steaming hot all the way through.

Processed meats: Keep in the fridge until you need them.

Dairy products: Only eat pasteurised dairy and make sure you use them within their use-by dates.

Eggs: Don’t eat eggs that have cracked or dirty shells.

We are aware of a number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome which have been preceded by a bout of food poisoning. Campylobacter jejuni, often occurring as a result of eating undercooked chicken, is a known trigger for axonal variants of the syndrome such as AMAN and AMSAN, so it makes sense to take the right precautions when preparing and cooking food. We want everyone to stay safe this summer and enjoy the warm weather!

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