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Don’t let a barbecue disaster put the flames out on your campfire

Camping, particularly at festivals, has become popular amongst young people in recent years, especially when finances are tight. All you need is a tent and a sleeping bag and off you go. But before you head off on your travels make sure you’re prepared for any nasty surprises along the way.

Around 18 million Brits go camping each year. Sleeping under canvas and enjoying the taste of food from a barbecue can be lots of fun. But with cases of food poisoning almost doubling during the summer months, it’s important to follow some basic advice. The last thing you want when you’re under the stars is an upset stomach!

Dr Marcus Bicknell, a GP in Beechdale and clinical lead at Nottingham City CCG, said: “For many people the freedom of the great outdoors and hanging out with friends is part of the enjoyment of camping. But if you’re cooking on a barbecue, especially a disposable one, it’s important to make sure that food is cooked properly to avoid food poisoning.

“Although food poisoning is usually mild, and most people get better within a week, there are times when it can be more severe, so it's important to take the risks seriously.”

Follow these basic tips to avoid an upset stomach on your holiday:

  • Prepare your barbecue early. This will ensure it’s at the right temperature by the time you want to cook. This is particularly important if you are using a disposable barbecue as it can take longer to heat up and to cook food. The coals should be glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking.
  • Regularly turn the meat and move it around the barbecue to make sure it’s cooked evenly.
  • Always cut meat at the thickest part to ensure none of it is pink on the inside. Don’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside it’ll be cooked properly on the inside. It’s always safer to cut open your burgers, sausages and chicken and check they’re cooked. If in doubt – keep cooking.

And remember, meat is only safe to eat when it’s piping hot in the centre, there’s no pink meat visible and juices are clear.

Dr Bicknell added: “It’s a good idea to pack a basic first aid kit when you go camping. The kit should include treatment for stomach upsets, as most cases of food poisoning can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. It’s also worth including treatment for bites, stings, burns, allergies, headaches, sprains and strains to ensure that you are well prepared for any minor ailments while you’re away. Your local pharmacy can give you advice on what you might need.”

An interactive first aid kit guide can also be found at www.nhs.uk, along with a checklist of useful things to include.

If symptoms persist and you need medical advice, call NHS111. This service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Simply dial 111 free of charge from a landline or mobile at any time of day or night to speak to a trained advisor.

To find your nearest pharmacy, or for more information on barbecue food safety, visit www.nhs.uk.

Published: 25 August 2015