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Nothing signals summer like the sizzling sounds of a barbecue. The backyard grill is often the focal point of family reunions and neighborhood parties. In fact, flipping foods on the barbecue has become one of the most popular ways to prepare foods at community festivals and fundraising events.

Talk to a health inspector
But before taking the barbecue from the backyard to a park for a sports event or picnic take the time to do some careful food safety planning. Call your local public health inspector if you are organizing an event where food will be sold or provided to large numbers of people.

He or she will explain the health regulations that are in place to help prevent foodborne illnesses caused by improper food handling, storage and preparation. For example, only hot dogs and precooked sausage can be prepared out in the open because there are fewer chances for problems since the food has already been cooked.

Plan for success
For menu options that start with uncooked food such as hamburger, chicken, ribs and pork you should be considering an enclosed structure like a booth or mobile unit. Raw meats and chicken can contain bacteria that will make people sick if they aren't cooked and stored correctly. These bacteria can also be spread to ready-to-eat foods like salads and buns from dirty utensils, work surfaces or food handling.

Health inspectors can also help you plan for a successful outing by sharing their expertise on tried and true methods for efficient and safe food preparation, cooking and serving. They can help you identify how you can tell if food is cooked through and offer ideas on ways to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

Keep it clean
Remember, no food preparation set up is complete without handwashing facilities. Make sure your plans include easy access to a handwashing site that has wastewater collection. All food handlers will need to wash their hands often. Cooking and serving utensils also need to be clean and sanitary. You should plan to have basins handy for sanitizing cookware (one gallon water and one capful bleach), or come prepared with an extra supply of clean cookware.

Once your set up is ready, remember your food safety basics:

  • Keep hazardous foods cold (below 5C)
  • Keep cooked foods hot
  • Have a probe thermometer to check temperatures
  • Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water
  • Cook meats well, until juices run clear and there is no pink in the middle
  • Protect food from contamination—store in clean, washable containers that are dust- and leak-proof
  • Sanitize your work surfaces with a mix of one gallon of water and one capful of bleach
  • Be sure your water supply is tested safe for drinking.

Source: Simcoe County District Health Unit

Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 September 2014 )