It's barbeque season and, as with any type of cooking, it's important to exercise safe food-handling practices to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading and causing food borne illness.
In previous years, British Columbia has seen an increase in avoidable food-borne infections from bacteria such as salmonella, E-coli and campylobacter during the summer months.
"These increases can be attributed to a variety of causes, including food-handling and cooking practices, and purchasing foods from unapproved sources," explains Lynn Wilcott, acting director of Food Protection Services at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.
"Between May and the middle of June, we have seen 81 cases of salmonella and 15 cases of E. coli in the province," explains Wilcott. "It's important that British Columbians remember to take certain precautions when preparing and purchasing food."
It is estimated that hundreds of British Columbians get sick from food poisoning every day, with many of these cases being unreported. The symptoms of food poisoning include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and usually go away after one to three days. However, serious cases of food poisoning can result in prolonged sickness and even death.
To fight bacteria that cause food-borne illness, the BCCDC reminds British Columbians to buy food from approved sources only and to follow the four C's of food safety:
CLEAN: Wash hands (minimum of 20 seconds) and surfaces often. Don't CROSS-CONTAMINATE: Do not use the same utensils, plates or cutting board for raw meat and raw vegetables as the ones used for cooked meat. COOK: Hamburgers to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F), and chicken to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F). CHILL: Refrigerate food promptly. Do not leave potato salad - or salads containing eggs or mayonnaise - at room temperature for longer than two hours.
For more information on food-borne illness:
* Visit BCCDC's Food Safety page at: www.bccdc.ca/foodhealth/default.htm
* Contact HealthLink BC by dialling 811
* View the HealthLink BC Files on Food Safety at: www.healthlinkbc.ca