Exciting news. Our app has a new name – Healthily. Learn more
Find out how to prepare, cook and store food correctly to minimise the risk of food poisoning, including E. coli.
This page covers:
Storing and preparing meat
Cooking meat on a barbecue
Acrylamide in starchy food
Washing fruit and vegetables
Our hands are one of the main ways that germs are spread. Harmful bacteria can be spread very easily from people's hands to food, work surfaces and equipment.
It's always important to wash them thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling food, and especially after touching raw food, the bin, pets, and going to the toilet.
Find out how to wash your hands correctly.
Raw meat, including poultry, can contain harmful bacteria that can spread easily to anything it touches, including food, worktops, tables, chopping boards, and knives.
Take particular care to keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat foods such as bread, salad and fruit. These foods won't be cooked before you eat them, so any germs that get on to them won't be killed.
Find out why you should never wash raw chicken.
Read more about storing leftovers safely.
Cooking food at the right temperature will ensure any harmful bacteria are killed. Check that food's steaming hot throughout before you eat it.
The foods below need to be cooked thoroughly before eating:
When cooking burgers, sausages, chicken, and pork, cut into the middle to check that the meat's no longer pink, the juices run clear and it's steaming hot throughout.
When cooking a whole chicken or bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between the drumstick and the thigh) to check there's no pink meat and the juices are no longer pink or red.
Pork joints and rolled joints shouldn't be eaten pink or rare. To check when these types of joint are ready to eat, put a skewer into the centre of the meat and check there's no pink meat and the juices run clear.
It's safe to serve steak and other whole cuts of beef and lamb rare (not cooked in the middle) or blue (seared on the outside) as long as they have been properly sealed by cooking them quickly at a high temperature on the outside only. Bacteria is usually only found on the outer surfaces of these types of meat.
The safest option is to fully cook food in your oven and then put the cooked food on the barbecue for a short time so the flavour can develop.
This can be an easier option if you're cooking for a lot of people at the same time.
If you're only cooking on the barbecue, the two main risk factors are:
When you're cooking most types of meat on a barbecue, such as poultry (chicken and turkey, for example), pork, burgers or sausages, make sure:
Most types of meat are safe to eat only when:
Cooking with disposable barbecues can take longer.
Meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle) as long as the outside has been properly cooked. This will kill any bacteria on the outside of the meat.
Food made from any type of minced meat, such as pork sausages and beef burgers, must be cooked thoroughly all the way through.
Acrylamide is a chemical that's created when many foods, particularly starchy foods like potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (over 120C), such as when baking, frying, grilling, toasting, and roasting.
Boiling, steaming and microwave cooking are unlikely to create acrylamide.
There's evidence to show acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer.
The Food Standards Agency has the following tips to reduce your risk of acrylamide at home:
For more information, read Starchy foods and carbohydrates.
Wash fruit and vegetables under cold running water before you eat them. This helps remove visible dirt and germs that may be on the surface. Peeling or cooking fruit and vegetables can also remove these germs.
Never use washing-up liquid or other household cleaning products to clean fruit and vegetables, as they're not intended for human consumption and you may accidentally leave some of the product on the food.
Find out more about washing fruit and vegetables.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.