Rare burgers ‘not worth the hassle’, PMA readers say

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

71% say rare burgers aren't worth the food safety hassle
71% say rare burgers aren't worth the food safety hassle

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

Serving rare burgers “is not worth the food safety hassle”, according to a Twitter poll of Publican’s Morning Advertiser readers.

The poll follows the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) recently released guidelines for the preparation and service of rare burgers in the hospitality sector, which have been heavily criticised by industry experts.

More than 70% of those asked said, despite the new guidelines being in place, serving rare burgers was not worth the hassle. Just 29% believed serving rare burgers was worth the hassle.

The industry was in a “state of flux” when it came to cooking and serving rare burgers, Dr Lisa Ackerley, a food safety advisor to the British Hospitality Association, told a Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) conference last week.

“Word on the ground is that the guidelines are not clear on what everybody has to do,” she said. “For me, serving rare burgers is definitely not worth the risk​ because it could cost you a lot of money and none of the guidelines would stop you from being prosecuted if anything [bad] happened.”

Controls put in place

Controls put in place by the FSA in September included: sourcing meat from European Union businesses approved for the supply of minced meat intended to be eaten raw; strict temperature controls to prevent bacterial growth; approved cooking and preparation procedures; notifying the local authority that rare burgers will be prepared on site; and on-menu advice to diners about the risks associated with eating rare burgers.

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

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

Sourcing meat from an EU-approved establishment was one control that caused Bassett concern.

“I’m a bit unsure about how many of these there are in the UK,” he said. “Also, 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.”

Complex

CIEH principal policy officer Jenny Morris went one step further and claimed the requirements needed to ensure ‘acceptable levels’ of risk were complex and called for sophisticated and validated food safety management systems along the supply chain.

“For many food businesses, contemplating serving rare burgers is likely to require considerable investment and change to existing systems.

“It is important that the requirements are fully understood and early discussions with EHOs [environmental health officers] are recommended as the approach will not be suitable for all food businesses.”

Following the release of the guidelines last month, the FSA said the preparation of rare burgers was unacceptable unless a validated and verified food safety management plan was in place.

It said: “This approach agreed by the board will improve consumer protection by making it clear to businesses the circumstances under which the service of rare burgers is acceptable and the stringent controls that must apply.”

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