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Top tips for food safety

The biggest food safety risks you will encounter are from under-cooked meat on barbecues, cross-contamination between raw and cooked food, and anything that will spoil quickly in the heat. The danger zone for the growth of bacteria is between 8°C and 63°C.

See the following tips on how to handle high risk foods safely to avoid getting ill from them.


  • Make sure to clean your hands, equipment and surfaces before preparing and serving your food to remove harmful bacteria and viruses from being transferred to your food.
  • Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables.

Cold food

  • Anything that can be eaten without further cooking, whether it’s coronation chicken sandwiches or trifle, should be stored in a fridge at below 8°C. When it is served, it should not remain at room temperature for longer than four hours – after that, bacteria will start to multiply and could become dangerous. 
  • If you want to keep leftovers for the next day, make sure they go straight back into the fridge, and are eaten the next day. 
  • Ice packs and cool boxes can be used to keep foods cool.
  • Chilling food properly helps stop harmful bacteria from growing. 

Hot food

  • Hot dishes should be thoroughly cooked, then kept at 63°C or above until ready to serve - they should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. 
  • If you are going to keep any for the next day, cool it quickly and put into the fridge or freezer, then reheat thoroughly and serve immediately.


  • If you are using a charcoal barbecue, allow time for the coals to get hot enough before you start cooking your food – they should be glowing red, with a grey, powdery surface. 
  • Ensure that everything is cooked thoroughly before serving (check there is no pink visible when you cut into the thickest part and that meat juices run clear) and avoid any cross contamination between raw and cooked foods. Chicken pieces or pork steaks are safest cooked thoroughly in the oven then finished off on the coals for that lovely smoked taste. 

The Food Standards Agency has more useful information about BBQ safety.

Extra care foods 

Foods containing raw egg, pâté, soft cheeses, deli meats, rice salads and shellfish are more likely to cause food poisoning. You can find out more information on minimising risks on this Food Standards Agency document.

Allergies and special diets 

  • Don’t forget to check with your guests if anyone requires a meat-free diet – you may need a separate barbecue if you have vegans or vegetarians to cater for. 
  • Some people may be allergic to everyday foods such as gluten, dairy or nuts so you should make sure it is kept covered and clearly labelled. Be particularly careful during preparation – even a breadcrumb can make a coeliac ill, and allergens can be found in many prepared foods, so read labels carefully.
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