One of the things I look forward to most about the summer is being able to eat outdoors. From a lazy Sunday lunch in the garden to an impromptu barbeque ‘just because’, they always feel more relaxed somehow. But, if we’re not careful, we can get a bit too relaxed, forgetting our timings and temperatures. My daughter is a case in point; 12 hours of vomiting after a birthday party she went to last week. Food left out on the hottest day of the year so far. Not a good mix. (She’s on the mend now, I’m happy to say).
Although pathogen outbreaks, like Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes, are generally on the decline*, reported cases of food poisoning have gone up in recent years (as we have reported before).
As professionals, hot weather is an important time to remind ourselves of best practice to ensure that we are not responsible for making anyone unwell. Here are some tips to refresh your memory.
We all know the importance of washing your hands, your surfaces and your equipment thoroughly but it never hurts to be reminded. The workflow of your kitchen and outdoor cooking area can help, for example by ensuring you have a linear workflow, you have the facilities to wash your hands outside and ensuring that the juices from raw foods won’t come into contact with ready to eat meals. Especially important, when it’s a long trek back to the kitchen for something that was forgotten.
Defrost and cook thoroughly
Some meals are prepared and designed to be cooked from frozen, and that’s fine. However, if you are planning to cook meat on a barbeque, it is really essential that it has been thoroughly thawed before you cook it; as we all know, barbeques can tend to char the outside while the middle is still uncooked. Plan ahead and ensure you allow enough time for food to thoroughly defrost in the fridge. If you are cooking on a barbeque, you might want to pre-cook in the oven first and then just bring the meat out to finish and get that smoky flavour.
Snacks, salads, and condiments
Any ready to eat, high risk foods such as rice salad and mayonnaise-based dressings will support the growth of bacteria. Therefore, temperature and time control of these foods are especially important. Bring them out just before serving and only keep them out for a limited time. The smell of BBQs is mouth-watering to us, but unfortunately it is also attractive to flies. Keep food covered to prevent flies landing on and contaminating the food.
Stock rotation and storage
Be thorough with your stock checks and ensure that use-by dates are stuck to rigidly. Warm weather is also a good time to check all your fridges and freezers are keeping the correct temperatures. Ensure they are well maintained, cleaned and defrosted regularly and kept closed as much as possible to ensure they are running effectively.
Would you let your child eat it?
If in any doubt at all, if a burger still just looks a little on the pink side for example, think to yourself: would you serve it to your own child or partner? If you hesitate, then it’s probably better not to serve it yet and to cook it for a bit longer. (The response to the Food Standards Agency’s recent consultation on ‘less than thoroughly cooked burgers’ should be due by the end of July so we await that with interest.
With a little extra care and attention there is no reason why you and your customers can’t enjoy that relaxed summer dining experience we all enjoy!
Academy Training Manager
Rod Carver - Level 3 Food Safety Attendee