Harmful bacteria are killed by cooking and reheating food at the right temperature for the correct length of time. Always follow the cooking instructions on the label and check the food is steaming hot in the middle.
Cooking meat and poultry
Chicken, duck, pork and offal
Chicken, duck, pork and offal should always be cooked through until the core temperature reaches 75°C, there is no pink meat and the juices run clear. This will kill any harmful bacteria.
These type of meats should never be eaten pink or rare.
Beef and lamb
Beef and lamb steaks and whole joints (not rolled joints) can be served rare as long as the outside has been properly cooked (sealed), to kill any bacteria present on the surface.
Always cook burgers and sausages made from these meats all the way through. This will kill harmful bacteria - including E. coli O157 - that might have been present on the surface of the meat and then mixed through after mincing.
If possible, use a thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature reaches 75°C and make sure there's no pink in the middle and the juices run clear.
How to tell when meat is cooked
If you have a food thermometer, the internal temperature should reach 75°C.
If you don't have a food thermometer, the meat:
- shouldn't be pink in the middle
- juices should run clear
- should be steaming hot throughout
To check whole birds, pierce the thickest part of the leg. For thicker joints, pierce the centre.
Cooking fish, shellfish and crustacea
Although most fish and some shellfish (oysters) can be eaten raw, cooking will kill any bacteria present. If you choose to eat raw fish, make sure that it's been frozen first as the cold temperature will kill any parasites present.
Raw shellfish should always be cooked alive but never cook any shellfish if the shell doesn't close.
How to tell if fish, shellfish and crustacea are cooked
Fish, shellfish and crustacea are cooked if:
- fish flesh will turn opaque (loses its transparency) and flake easily with a fork - cook fish until it reaches 62°C with a food thermometer or fish flesh
- shrimp and lobster flesh will turn opaque
- scallops will become firm and turn opaque
- mussel, whelk and oyster shells will open - never eat shellfish if the shell remains closed after cooking
Cooking on a barbecue
Undercooked foods and cross-contamination are the greatest risks when using a barbeque. Cooking food in the oven before finishing on the barbecue is a great way to ensure food is cooked all the way through.
To ensure food is safe to eat:
- defrost meat thoroughly before cooking - ideally in your fridge
- keep meat and ready to eat foods - such as salad and bread - separate
- regularly turn and move around to cook evenly
- use separate utensils for raw and cooked meats
- don't use a sauce or marinade for cooked food that has had raw meat in it
You'll know when your barbeque is at the right temperature for cooking when the coals are glowing red and have a powdery grey surface. Never cook food over flames as the outside will burn, but the inside will be raw and unsafe to eat.
Reheating cooked food
When reheating food make sure that it's steaming hot and heated all the way through to 75°C.
Use chilled food within 2 days of cooking. If the food has been cooked, frozen and then defrosted, reheat within 24 hours.
You should only ever reheat food once. The more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning.