Rare burger rule change ‘costly’ for pub chefs

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

New FSA rare burger rules aren't 'robust enough', says food safety expert
New FSA rare burger rules aren't 'robust enough', says food safety expert

Related tags Rare burgers Food safety Food standards agency Hazard analysis and critical control points

Serving rare burgers in UK food businesses could be expensive and remain potentially dangerous, even with new Food Standards Agency (FSA) controls in place, a leading food safety consultant has warned.

Previous FSA guidance had been that burgers should be cooked until no meat was pink. But, the increased popularity of rare burgers has led the organisation to set out a range of controls food businesses should take into account to ensure diners’ safety.

Controls include: sourcing meat from European Union (EU)​ businesses approved for the supply of minced meat intended to be eaten raw; strict temperature controls to prevent bacterial growth; appropriate cooking and preparation procedures; notifying the local authority that rare burgers will be served; and on-menu advice to consumers about the risks of eating rare burgers.

However, the controls weren’t robust enough, according to food safety expert and former member of the FSA’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food John Bassett.

‘Some challenges’

Operations manager:

Most chefs in the pub and restaurant trade are very knowledgeable about preparing safe rare burgers

“The main problem will be meeting the controls and there are some challenges [within them] for any establishments wanting to serve rare burgers,” he said.

One control that would prove particularly difficult to meet was sourcing meat from an EU-approved establishment. “I’m a bit unsure about how many of these there are in the UK,” Bassett added.

Likewise, the ability for pub kitchens to achieve a required bacterial reduction of 99.99% in rare burgers and prove it was likely to be difficult and expensive for many establishments to implement.

“These requirements will not be straightforward and are indeed more like the HACCP [Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point] programmes used by, say, food manufacturers, which are more complicated than the food safety plans used by smaller foodservice establishments,” Bassett added.

The operations manager of a bar and restaurant chain that serves rare burgers disagreed with Bassett and claimed many businesses in the sector were already well-equipped to supply safe rare burgers to consumers.

‘Preparing safe rare burgers’

“Most chefs in the pub and restaurant trade are very knowledgeable about preparing safe rare burgers,” said the source who did not want to be named.

“We make sure to sear the steaks we use for our mince on all sides before making burgers, which ensures any potentially unsafe bugs are destroyed.”

In a board meeting yesterday (September 9), the FSA said the preparation of rare burgers was unacceptable unless a validated and verified food safety management plan was in place.

Of its new rare burger controls, it said: “The approach agreed by the board will improve consumer protection by making it clear to businesses the circumstances under which service of rare burgers in acceptable and the stringent controls that must apply.”

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