Barbecues and the Health Risks Whether you are just treating yourself to a mid-week barbecue or are hosting a large party, barbecues should be a time to have fun, relax and enjoy great food in the fresh air. As with most things that are enjoyable, barbecues do have their health risks but if you take precautions, then there is no reason why you cannot continue to enjoy barbecues without causing any harm to your health. Here are some of the main barbecue health risks: Food poisoning We’ve all heard horror stories about people getting sick after eating food at a barbecue. The most common cause of this is eating meat that has not been properly cooked. Here are some important points to remember in order to avoid food poisoning:
Always keep raw poultry and meat away from other foods. Use separate utensils and chopping boards to keep raw food and cooked food separate. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food. Remember to wash your hands after touching raw poultry or meat before touching anything else. Make sure that chicken and meat are cooked all the way through before serving. Remember that just because something looks well-done on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean it is cooked in the middle. Use a meat thermometer to check that meat or poultry is cooked or insert a skewer into the thickest part of the meat and check that the juices run clear. If the juices are bloody, it needs to be cooked longer. Keep raw food in the fridge or in a cool box until you are ready to cook it. If you are hosting an evening barbecue make sure that you have enough light to check that the food is thoroughly cooked through.
Carcinogens For many years, scientists have debated whether barbeques can cause cancer and it’s hard to find a clear answer. The possible causes of cancer from barbecues fall into two main areas:
Exposure to carcinogens from eating barbecued food as possible cancer-causing hydrocarbons can be found in chargrilled food. Exposure to carcinogens from breathing in smoke, as the dioxins similar to those found in cigarettes can be released from the smoke generated when barbecuing.
Although more research needs to be done before scientists can be sure of any potential risks, the consensus seems to be that if you are enjoying an occasional barbecue (rather than several times a week) then the risks are probably low. You can further minimise any risks by ensuring that you barbecue in an area that is well-ventilated so that the smoke can easily escape and avoid eating burnt food. Fire and flames Whenever you are cooking with heat, there is a risk of injury. Protect yourself from fires, scalds and burns by following these guidelines:
Choose the location for your BBQ carefully. Place it in a sheltered spot where it will be protected from the wind. Keep it away from garden sheds or timber structures and ensure that it is on a flat, stable surface. Have a bucket of water, fire extinguisher and fire blanket to hand in case of emergencies. Use the correct fuel to light your barbecue – do not use petrol, paraffin or other flammable liquids. Don’t underestimate how important it is to use the correct barbecue fuel. Dress sensibly when barbecuing – avoid long sleeves, scarves and shawls which could catch fire. Don’t wear open-toed sandals when cooking as you could drop hot foods, coals or sharp utensils onto your feet. Wear oven gloves whilst cooking or handling hot utensils. Keep small children and pets well away from the barbecue and ensure that they are not running around when you are carrying hot food. Never leave the barbecue unattended. Always allow coals or wood to cool completely before disposing of them – this could take several hours. Keep your hands away from the flames by using utensils with long handles that are specifically designed for BBQs. Avoid the temptation to drink too much alcohol if you are in charge of the cooking – one or two drinks is probably ok but if you overdo it then you are more likely to make mistakes which could result in an accident.
Too much of a good thing It is easy to get sunburnt if you are outdoors for a long time on a sunny day, so remember your suntan lotion and sun hat. If you feel you are getting too hot, head into the shade. When the summer sun makes an appearance it can be tempting to over indulge â€“ especially when it comes to ice cold beers or chilled bottles of wine. But if your barbecue is an all-day affair, then itâ€™s probably wise to pace yourself when drinking alcohol. Remember that alcohol can be dehydrating, especially when combined with a day in the sun, so have plenty of water and soft drinks to hand so that you have an alternative to alcohol.