Barbecue warning: How just a tiny drop of raw meat juice can spoil the fun

Whether you’re a meat-lover, vegetarian, vegan, or anything in between, most of us enjoy a good barbecue.

Chuck on a load of burgers, halloumi kebabs or corn on the cob and everyone’s happy – that is until someone comes down with food poisoning from your efforts.

Campylobacter is rife in the summer months, with undercooked poultry, meat, eggs and cross-contamination of food the main culprits.

In fact, just a single drop of juice from raw poultry or meat finding its way onto your vegetarian kebab is enough to infect you.

Makes you shudder, doesn’t it?

Summer is a particular hot spot for campylobacter, as many of us buy heaps of chicken to whack on the griddle.

It’s quite common to wash poultry before cooking it, but experts say this can easily splash the bug onto hands, clothing, work surfaces and, most importantly, cooking equipment.

Chicken gets a well-deserved bad rap for food poisoning, but you can also fall ill from eating kebabs or burgers.

Experts say around 3,500 Brits end up in hospital with campylobacter every year.

And more needs to be done to combat it, with antibiotic resistance against the bug increasing.

What does campylobacter actually do to you?
After ingesting the bacteria, most people get diarrhoea which can be bloody, along with cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days. Feeling sick and vomiting may also happen. On average, the illness lasts around a week.

What do the experts say?
Professor Matthew Goddard, of the University of Lincoln, says: “The biggest risk (of getting campylobacter) is poor food hygiene, cross-contamination and undercooked meat – particularly, but not just, chicken.

“From reviewing evidence from around the world, we see that there is no single processing solution, type of farming, or public education intervention that can solve this.”

He added people should always make sure their food is cooked properly.

“And be careful not to contaminate cooked meat with bacteria from raw meat – especially at barbecues where food at different stages of cooking might be on the same grill rack and handwashing facilities may be further away”.

Food Standards Agency top tips
Avoid cross-contamination by never washing chicken or letting raw chicken anywhere near ready-to-eat foods
Good hygiene will help to avoid passing on any bacteria to someone else through food
Make sure meat is steaming hot all the way through
Meat juices must run clear
The Food Standard Agency (FSA) says thankfully, the majority of people struck down by the illness recover quickly.

But some can experience serious and long-term health problems, such as kidney failure, seizures and visual and hearing issues.

Most at risk were children under five, as they have weaker immune systems.

The UK’s poultry industry has made great strides over the past decade to reduce the amount of chicken testing positive for campylobacter.

Experts at Oxford Martin say the ratio has fallen from 73 per cent of chickens possessing the bug in 2014 to 40 per cent in 2018.

But cases of the illness have not followed a similarly downwards trajectory.