Make food safety a 'walk in the park' this summer

Issued on behalf of safefood and the Food Standards Agency NI

6 June, 2007. Planning a picnic, barbecue or camping trip this summer…? The Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland (FSANI) and safefood are urging people to ‘keep food safe’ following the findings from a recent survey which revealed that a third of people here are putting themselves at risk of food poisoning when eating outdoors.

More than 600 people across Northern Ireland were questioned about their food safety habits when eating outdoors, in a survey commissioned by safefood and FSANI to mark this year’s National Food Safety Week (June 11th to 17th).

Key findings of the survey highlighted a lack of knowledge on how to check that meat is properly cooked. In fact more than a quarter of those questioned thought that meat and meat products were thoroughly cooked if they ‘looked, smelled or tasted ok’.

A third of those questioned also relied on their senses when deciding whether cooked meats or poultry left over from their trip were safe to bring home and eat – again the decision was based on whether the food ‘looked, smelled or tasted ok’.

Dr David McCleery, safefood, explains the impact of these results: “Eating outdoors is one of the great benefits of our summer months, but without proper kitchen facilities, keeping food safe can be a challenge. The foods that you take on picnics, barbecues and camping trips can be kept out of their usual storage conditions such as the fridge or freezer for long periods of time but with some careful planning and preparation, any meal outdoors can be a safe, healthy and enjoyable experience.

“Perishable foods should be kept chilled in suitable cool boxes or containers and any perishable products that have warmed up should not be eaten and disposed of. It’s important to separate raw food from ready to eat food such as cooked foods, salads and breads. By placing raw meat in sealed containers and packing at the bottom of the cool bag, you can prevent meat juices from dripping onto other foods, and stop the spread of harmful germs.

“As well as storing food safely, it’s essential when cooking meat that has been minced, skewered or rolled such as burgers, sausages and kebabs, that it is thoroughly cooked and never served “rare” or pink in the middle. With whole cuts of meat e.g. steak, any harmful bacteria will live on the outside only and these cuts can be cooked to preference e.g. “rare”. But when meat is minced or chopped up, any bacteria present are moved around and these meats must be cooked thoroughly until they are piping hot all the way through to kill any bacteria that could cause food poisoning.

“To check that a burger or sausage is cooked thoroughly, cut into the middle with a clean knife and check that it is piping hot all the way through, there is no pink meat left and the juices run clear.”

Trevor Williamson, Head of General Food Hygiene at FSANI says: “Another important element to keep in mind when cooking food outside or picnicking is keeping your hands clean as well as any utensils you bring with you. Hands are a perfect way of spreading germs which may cause food poisoning so where possible you should wash them with soap and water or use handwipes/gels until you can use proper handwashing facilities. 

“There are also many picnic locations in Northern Ireland which have beautiful streams or lakes nearby but you should never be tempted to drink from them. When you are on a picnic you should bring a supply of drinking water with you as these lovely lakes could contain lots of nasty germs which could make you ill.

“FSANI, in conjunction with safefood, the Environment and Heritage Service and the Environmental Health Service, has produced ‘Picnic’, a leaflet containing food safety tips for eating outdoors. This handy leaflet includes a guide to picnic destinations in Northern Ireland. We hope that people will have the opportunity to visit some of these great places to picnic but stay safe when eating outdoors this summer.”

Working in partnership with the 26 District councils, and the Environment and Heritage Service, this National Food Safety Week initiative is co-funded by safefood and the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland (FSANI).

Free copies of the leaflet are available from local district councils, tourist information offices, Environment and Heritage sites, as well as from FSANI and safefood.
Anyone requiring further information about National Food Safety Week or additional leaflets should contact the safefood helpline on 0800 085 1683


Notes to editors

  1. Over 600 people at 24 locations across Northern Ireland took part in the National Food Safety Week survey.
  2. A photograph and artwork for the National Food Safety Week leaflet is attached

For further information please contact

Kathy Doyle or Leanne McCarroll at IAS SMARTS on 028 90395500