Barbecue season has begun and Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of steps they can take to avoid foodborne illness caused by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Eating undercooked meat and other foods that have come into contact with raw meat can cause foodborne illness. Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, vomiting, fever and diarrhea.

It is estimated that approximately 1 in 8 Canadians will get sick from food poisoning (foodborne illness) in Canada. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

What you should do

You can help lower your risk of foodborne illness by handling and cooking raw meat carefully.

Raw meat should always be stored in a refrigerator or cooler at 4ºC (40ºF) or below.
If you are storing raw meat in a cooler, make sure that it is packed with ice and that it stays out of direct sunlight. Avoid opening it too often.
Ensure meat products are well sealed so their juices don’t come in contact with other food products, thus avoiding cross-contamination.

Remember to wash your hands and other utensils, like cutting boards, countertops and knives, carefully with soap and warm water before and after handling raw meat. This helps to avoid cross-contamination and prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

When you grill:
Colour alone is not a reliable indicator that meat is safe to eat. Meat can turn brown before all bacteria are killed. Use a digital food thermometer to be sure.
To check the temperature of meat that you are cooking on the barbecue, take it off the grill and insert a digital food thermometer through the thickest part of the meat.
If you are cooking a beef hamburger, take the patty from the grill and insert a digital food thermometer through its side, all the way to the middle.
If you are cooking more than one patty, or several pieces of meat, be sure to check the temperature of each piece.
Use clean utensils and plates when removing cooked meats from the grill.
Remember to wash the thermometer in hot, soapy water between temperature readings.
Always remember to keep hot food hot until it is ready to serve.

Always follow these safe internal temperatures to make sure that the food that you are cooking is safe to eat.