Almost half of respondents to a survey in Northern Ireland have been served raw or undercooked meat at a barbecue.

The poll revealed 45 percent of barbecue-goers in summer were given items such as burgers, chicken and sausages but left them untouched because of the risk of food poisoning.

Safefood conducted the survey of 300 adults across Northern Ireland to shed light on barbecue cooking habits. The group safefood promotes food safety and nutrition in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Advice is to use a thermometer
Research discovered that two-thirds of home barbecue chefs were unaware of the correct temperature required to ensure meats were cooked and safe to eat. It also found that 5 percent of people relied on taste to check if meat was cooked.

Almost a third of people said they used a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked barbecue meats like burgers, chicken and sausages to determine whether they are safe to eat before serving to guests.

Safefood urged home barbecue chefs to prioritize food safety this summer by using a meat thermometer and taking the guess work out of cooking by checking burgers, chicken, kebabs, and sausages should be cooked to 75 degrees C (167 degrees F). Steaks can be served more rare as harmful bacteria are usually on the outside and not in the center.

Gary Kearney, interim CEO at safefood, said: “With almost half of Northern Ireland’s barbecue-goers having been offered raw or undercooked meat, it is crucial that home barbecue chefs across Northern Ireland eliminate any guesswork and avert any potential barbecue food poisoning mishaps this summer.”

Other tips include keeping perishable food like salads, coleslaw, and quiche in the fridge until they are ready to be served. When handling raw meat and poultry, wash hands thoroughly and frequently, including before preparing salads and other ready-to-eat foods. If there are leftovers, allow food to cool before refrigerating, however, make sure to refrigerate within two hours of cooking and use any leftovers within three days. 

Alex Huston, a chef, said: “Using a meat thermometer really is a game-changer. It takes the guesswork out of grilling your favorite meats and ensures it’s cooked to perfection, both in terms of taste and safety.” 

Ready meal project findings
In late 2022, safefood published research on pre-prepared convenience meals and food safety risks.

A literature review highlighted limited research into consumer behavior relating to pre-prepared convenience foods. It showed that food safety knowledge varied among sociodemographic groups and that behaviors relating to storage and following use-by dates were not always in line with the guidance.

An audit survey including 266 meals indicated that some convenience foods did not comply with legislation around ingredient and allergen lists and that details provided for reheating and freezing were insufficient.

In-home observations of 50 people showed participants did not always check the use-by instructions and were unlikely to identify food safety hazards such as damaged packaging. Some participants were willing to inappropriately reheat and consume leftovers.

Interviews with 50 consumers revealed the main reasons for using pre-prepared food products are convenience and a general belief that they are safe. Problems relating to type size, the level of detail and location of instructions were identified.

Online survey participants demonstrated relatively low safe behaviors in relation to storage, preparation and use of leftovers of pre-prepared convenience foods. Older respondents had higher food safety knowledge and safer behaviors.

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