Handwashing and food safety key to healthy, happy bank holidays

Health protection

04 May 2023

North Northamptonshire Council logo

May’s multiple bank holidays give many of us a great opportunity to gather with family and friends over the long weekends, enjoying the outdoors when the great British weather behaves. 

However, gastro-intestinal infections are frequently associated with barbeques and picnics, often due to food being poorly stored or undercooked. 

Celebrating safely means thinking about food safety ahead of time, so on the day you can concentrate on enjoying yourselves with friends and family. 

Here are some simple tips if you're making food for family and friends:   

  • wash your hands (NHS website) regularly with soap and water before food preparation and consumption
  • ensure that food preparation areas are cleaned (Food Standards Agency website) and sanitised before and after use and ensure equipment is washed in hot soapy water
  • always wash fresh fruit and vegetables
  • keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart for example, using different chopping boards for raw meat and vegetables or fruit
  • remember to thaw meat and poultry fully before cooking. Make sure food is properly cooked before you serve it – it needs to be piping hot - Red meat such as steaks can be served pink, rare or bloody and pose no risk to health, however other meats, like chicken and pork, as well as minced meat products such as burgers, kebabs and sausages, should not be served pink or rare
  • remember that charred on the outside doesn't always mean cooked on the inside - You can pre-cook food in the oven and finish off on the BBQ
  • you should use different plates for raw meat, cooked meat, and ready to eat food such as salads and quiches - Use different utensils for different foods
  • plan ahead to keep your food cool until you're ready to eat - Any foods which you would usually keep in the fridge at home also need to be kept cool on your picnic, or at your BBQ - This includes any food with a use-by-date, cooked dishes, salads and dairy products - This also applies to any desserts you have planned. It’s best to store chilled food in the fridge or cool bag until the main course is finished
  • place these foods in a cool box or cool bag with ice or frozen gel packs - Distribute these throughout the box or bag, not all at the bottom
  • once you’ve served up your picnic, or BBQ put any remaining food back in the cool box to keep cool, or in the fridge if at home
"Following Food Standards Agency guidance on the 4 C’s: cleaning, chilling, cooking and avoiding cross-contamination will help you prepare a safe feast. But it’s also vitally important to take personal responsibility for good hand hygiene.  

Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds kills most germs, including those responsible for sickness bugs like norovirus. 

Hand washing is also vital to minimise the risk of common infections such as E.coli 0157, Salmonella and Cryptosporidium. These can cause symptoms varying from a mild upset tummy to more serious diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. Unwelcome guests no-one wants, especially during their bank holiday!"
Interim Director of Public Health for North Northamptonshire, Susan Hamilton