Unless care is taken, says the Belleville Intelligencer, that summertime favorite, hamburger, can lead to sickness, perhaps even a stay in hospital or worse.

"Unfortunately, many people get more casual about food safety when they cook outdoors," said Rebecca Mathers of the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit. "This can lead to dangerous results, especially when cooking ground meat burgers."

If you are not careful in handling and preparing foods, particularly undercooking meats like hamburger, contamination from E. coli bacteria can result and ingestion can lead to kidney damage and even death, Mathers said.

"Cooking burgers to the proper internal temperature helps to destroy E. coli," she said. Beef burgers are done at an internal temperature of 71 C. Poultry burgers should reach an even higher internal temperature of 74 C. Mathers recommends the use of a thermometer, slipping the stem sideways into the centre of the burger to make sure the meat is done, rather than checking the color of the meat for doneness.

Health unit spokeswoman Carol Snell says that there are four words to remember when cooking either indoors or out: chill, clean, separate, cook.

Snell said to keep food in the refrigerator as opposed to on a counter or beside the barbecue; clean your hands, the workstation and produce and separate raw foods and juices to prevent cross contamination.

"Prepare foods quickly," she said. "Cook them thoroughly and serve them immediately."