Barbeque May Contain Hidden Dangers

Simple safety measures are key to avoiding food poisoning, burns, expert says

SUNDAY, July 17, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Backyard barbeques are a big part of summer fun, but avoiding their hidden dangers is key to staying healthy and enjoying a cookout, a doctor suggests.

Barbeques can result in food poisoning from raw or undercooked foods; temperamental grills can cause burns; and charred meat may contribute to the development of certain types of cancer, according to Dr. Martha Howard, a Chicago Healers practitioner.

But it doesn't have to be that way, Howard noted in a news release from the health care network. As the summer heats up and more people fire up their grills, Howard offers the following tips to help ensure safe and healthy barbeques:

  • Keep it clean. Be sure to scrub the grill and remove old fats.
  • Use wood starters for charcoal -- not petroleum. Stack charcoal in a two-pound metal can with the ends cut off. Spread out the coals with tongs once they are well-lit.
  • Become familiar with the grill. It's important to know how to operate and turn off a propane grill safely.
  • Use proper hygiene. Remember to wash your hands and use separate plates and cutting boards for raw and cooked meats.
  • Use marinades. Marinated meat may char less. Just don't let meat sit out while it's marinating.
  • Precook. Avoid taking meats or poultry directly from the freezer to the grill. Precooking before grilling reduces overall cooking temperature and charring.
  • Cut down to size. Cut meat and chicken into smaller pieces so they cook thoroughly.
  • Check temperatures. To avoid food poisoning, check temperatures with a meat thermometer: chicken, 165 degrees; hamburger, 160 degrees; pork, 150 degrees; hot dogs, 140 degrees; steak, 160 degrees for medium.
  • Don't allow meat to become charred. Charred meat contains three potentially cancer-causing chemicals: PhIP, HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
  • Trim the fat. Less fat on meat and poultry means fewer PAHs.
  • Try more vegetables. Vegetables can be grilled for a healthy alternative to meat.
  • Turn it off. At the end of the barbecue, be sure to put out charcoal completely, or turn the propane valve off.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about barbeque safety.

SOURCE: Chicago Healers, news release, July 13, 2011
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