What food is safe to eat at a barbecue when pregnant?

Sausages, burgers, steaks and BBQ side dishes - are they OK to eat during pregnancy?

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In a nutshell

Yes, barbecue food is safe as long as you follow good food hygiene

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The expert view

According to the Food Standards Agency, the two main risks with BBQ food are undercooked meat and spreading germs from raw meat onto other food.

These could lead to a nasty bout of food poisoning, while undercooked meat is a no-no for pregnant women because of the possible risk of toxoplasmosis.

If you’ve been invited to a barbecue, our nutritionist Dr Rana Conway advises to “discreetly cut into the middle of a sausage or piece of meat” to check it’s cooked through.

To be even more certain the food is cooked properly, the FSA recommends actually cooking the meat in the oven first, then popping on the BBQ grill for the last few minutes to get that smokey flavour.

But it’s not just the meat that can pose a problem: all those yummy sauces and salads could have hidden nasties.

“When you’re at a barbecue you need to be careful about the side dishes as well as the meat,” explains Dr Conway. “Salads, dips and sauces are sometimes left out for several hours, the weather is likely to be warm and the same cutlery may be used for different foods. This all provides an ideal environment for food poisoning bacteria to spread and multiply. Try sticking to hot foods and those you know haven’t been out for long.”

Type of food poisoning

E. coli & Salmonella

These common food poisoning bugs are easily picked up when you’re pregnant. They won’t pass trough the placenta and infect your baby but they can cause dehydration and exhaustion, which is the last thing you need! They can be avoided by ensuring all cooked food is piping hot and cooked right through.

Listeriosis

This is a nasty bacteria pregnant women are susceptible to. It can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, or severe illness in newborn babies. You can protect yourself against it by avoiding high-risk foods like raw meat, rare steaks, and any unwashed salads and veg. It is also the main reason pregnant women are advised not to eat soft unpasturised cheeses like Brie and any kind of pâté.

Toxoplasmosis

This is another illness that can be avoided by staying away from high-risk foods and particularly raw meat. Caused by a microscopic parasite that can also be present in cat poo (yuck!), it can seriously affect an unborn baby although cases of it are very rare. This too can be avoided by following our BBQ rules.

6 basic BBQ rules

Remember, if you are at all concerned about how the food has been stored, prepared or cooked, don’t eat it and stick to safer foods like potatoes, safe cheeses, pre-packed cooked meats and breads.

– Leave the raw meat to someone else! And make sure they avoid cross-contamination by washing their hands every time they touch raw meat.

– Keep raw and cooked meat separate and use different utensils for each

– Make sure frozen meat is defrosted properly

– Check that food is cooked right through – look for any pinkness (not cooked enough) and make sure it’s piping hot even in the centre

– Keep foods like salad, dips, milk, yogurt and desserts cool and avoid eating them if they’ve stood out in the sun for too long.

– Cover up your food with plastic film or foil, or keep them in airtight boxes

Mums on our forum say

“I love bbqs and so long as you’re sensible there is no reason to avoid them. I did have a friend who was completely neurotic during pregnancy and avoided so much food, she would never have eaten from a bbq so I guess it’s just down to how relaxed you are about these things!” MrsBinks

“I’ve had a few barbecues since finding out I’m pregnant, and I do stick a knife into a burger or sausage to make sure its properly cooked through, especially if the bbq chef is a bit tipsy! But then I think I’d do that anyway!” LSG191110

Read more about barbecue and picnic food safety during pregnancy

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