July 7, 2004

Food safety tips for cooking on the barbeque

NEWMARKET It's barbeque season. York Region Health Services reminds residents that food-borne illness, also known as "food poisoning," may happen if improper techniques are used when cooking on the barbeque. This summer, follow these simple techniques to help reduce the risk of food-borne illness:
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold:
 As a general rule when preparing or serving food items, keep food out of the "danger zone," which is between 4C (40F) and 60C (140F). To do this, keep hot food items hot, at least 60C (140F), and keep cold food items cold at 4C (40F) or colder.
 Refrigerate or freeze meat after purchase
 Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not at room temperature or on the counter
 Eat cooked food items while they are still hot
 Refrigerate leftover food as soon as possible
Prepare food carefully:
 Always wash your hands with liquid soap and water before and after handling raw meats 
 Do not re-use plates. Avoid cross-contamination by placing cooked meats on clean plates 
 Do not let any juices from the meat come in contact with other food or food preparation
equipment. Remember to always use a clean cutting board
 Keep raw meat separate from other foods. Other food items should not come into contact with raw or uncooked food.
Cook food thoroughly:
 Hamburgers and other meats should be cooked thoroughly.  Ideally, a thermometer should be used to make sure the internal temperature gets up above 71C (160F).  If you don't have a thermometer, make sure the meat is "well done," when the core is brown and the juices run clear.
 Poultry should be cooked to 82C (180F).  Poultry may need to be par-boiled before going on the grill.  There should be no pink near the bone 
Clean up properly: 
 Dishes, cutting boards and counters need to be washed with hot, soapy water and then sanitized with diluted bleach after handling meat.  Use 2 ml (approximately teaspoon) of household bleach to 1 litre (4 cups) water to provide enough sanitizer.
(Barbeque safety continued)
Food-borne illness, also known as "food poisoning," may happen if improper cooking techniques are used. Some types of food poisoning are caused by Escherichia coli (E.coli). E.coli are bacteria that are commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are different types of E.coli, some of which are not harmful to people and some which can cause serious illness.
Verotoxin-producing E.coli (or VTEC) is a potentially hazardous strain of E.coli that can cause illness, permanent kidney damage or even death. People who become infected with this bacterium frequently report that they ate ground beef prior to their illness. For this reason, the disease has been dubbed "hamburger disease" or "BBQ Syndrome." However, ground beef is only one source of VTEC.   People have also become ill after eating other kinds of undercooked meats, or drinking unpasteurized milk or unchlorinated water.
Most people who become infected with VTEC feel like they have a bad case of the '"stomach flu," while others may experience severe symptoms. Two to ten days after eating food contaminated with VTEC, people may experience severe stomach cramps, vomiting and a mild fever. People experiencing the severe form of the disease will develop watery diarrhea, which may lead to hemorrhagic colitis (bloody diarrhea). Most people recover within 7 to 10 days.  Proper handling of and cooking of food will reduce the risk of contracting a food-borne illness.
Proper handling of and cooking of food will reduce the risk of contracting a food-borne illness. For more information on safe food handling practices or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.region.york.on.ca.

Contact:  Wendy Lewis, York Region Corporate Communication Services
905-830-4444 Ext. 1238

The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities.  York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities:  Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.  For more information, visit our Web site at:  www.region.york.on.ca

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

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