Almost half of people surveyed in Ireland are at risk of getting sick from eating undercooked hamburgers.

A total of 45 percent of respondents are risking illness from eating undercooked burgers because they don’t cook them to high enough temperatures to kill pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Safefood’s Well Done BBQ Burger campaign encourages people to follow good food safety habits when preparing and cooking food on the barbeque this summer to avoid making others sick.

Research was conducted by iReach in June as part of the Consumer Nationwide Omnibus survey with 1,000 responses on a nationally representative basis. It also found that people lack confidence when it comes to knowing when barbecue  meat is thoroughly cooked, with 50 percent of those surveyed saying they find this challenging.

Safefood’s research revealed that 45 percent of people have burnt the food on the outside, while it was still raw on the inside. More than a third claimed it took too long for the grill to heat up, and 16 percent of those surveyed have set fire to grills.

Avoiding food poisoning
More than a quarter are barbecuing more than usual, with 18 percent using the barbecue with the same enthusiasm as previous years. A third of respondents look online for trusted sources of information and inspiration, as well as tips and advice for barbecuing, while a quarter ask for advice from friends and family and 15 percent rely on cookbooks.

Gary Kearney, director of food safety at safefood, said the research reveals that many people lack confidence when it comes to knowing how to properly cook meat and poultry.

“Foods like burgers, chicken and sausages must be cooked thoroughly, and absolutely never served rare or pink in the middle as this can cause food poisoning. With our tips and advice, we want people to have confidence in safe BBQ cooking by following good food safety advice and avoiding any food poisoning situations so that they can keep their families safe,” he said.

Safefood’s tips include keep perishable food like salads or coleslaw in the fridge until they are to be served, if barbecuing frozen food, it must be completely thawed on the bottom shelf of the fridge before cooking and when handling raw meat and poultry, wash hands thoroughly and frequently.

Burgers, sausages and kebabs, pork and poultry must be cooked all the way through. Make sure any marinade used on raw meat is not then used as a sauce to coat vegetables or cooked meat because it will contain raw meat bacteria.

Keep cooked meat separate from raw meat and use separate chopping boards, cooking utensils and plates and allow leftovers to cool before refrigerating but make sure to put food in the fridge within two hours of cooking.

Similar warning in Hong Kong
The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (71 degrees C), poultry must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) and cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F (63 degrees C) with a three minute resting time after taking the meat off the heat.

Officials in Hong Kong also recently warned eating undercooked beef burgers or steaks can cause food poisoning.

The Centre for Food Safety in the country said there has been a trend in recent years at gourmet-style burger restaurants. Some consumers may prefer the taste and mouthfeel of rare or medium burger patties to the well-done versions. Restaurants that serve undercooked steaks are encouraged to provide advice on their menus to inform consumers of the potential risk.

When meat is minced to produce burger patties, bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli from the raw meat’s surface are mixed throughout the whole batch. Unless the burger patty is cooked right through, these bacteria can remain alive on the inside. In Hong Kong, there has been sporadic E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to minced beef congee.

The agency also advised consumers, especially susceptible people such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system, not to eat undercooked meat.

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