With only a few weeks remaining in barbecue season, local public health officials are urging people to cook hamburger properly and clean or discard anything that has come into contact with raw meat.

According to The Record, the reason for the warning is a sudden increase in reported food poisoning cases, the majority of which resulted from improperly cooked or contaminated hamburger meat prepared at home, which can cause E. coli poisoning.

The province saw 44 cases last month, compared to only 19 infections in July of last year, with 86 per cent of this July’s cases coming from those who grill their own burgers.

According to Dr. Reno Proulx, consulting doctor with the public health agency in the Eastern Townships, most people know to cook their meat properly because of extensive public awareness campaigns on the issue. Infections this year are rising because people are using the same plates and utensils to handle raw and cooked meat, without washing them in between.

"People are putting their cooked hamburgers on the same plate as the raw hamburger meat. With juices from the raw meat leftover, the cooked hamburger then becomes contaminated," said Dr. Proulx.

It also seems that people are also forgetting to take the most basic precaution – hand-washing.

"Forty-five per cent of those infected in July were people who handled the raw meat directly," said Dr. Proulx, meaning those who cook and then do not wash their hands before eating, make up a large proportion of the infections reported this year.