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CIEH warns FSA over rare burger messaging

Stuart Spear09/08/2017 - 14:49

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Advice to cook burgers medium rare a health risk
Advice to cook burgers medium rare a health risk

CIEH has warned of the public health risk caused by confusion over FSA advice on rare burgers after a leading UK chef advised on national radio it is acceptable to serve burgers medium rare when barbecuing.

Listeners tuned in to the Steve Wright Programme on BBC Radio 2 on Monday afternoon (7 August) were told by TV chef Kevin Woodford that while sausages had to be well cooked it was acceptable to serve burgers medium rare when barbecuing. 

The comment flies in the face of FSA advice on cooking burgers at home which states ‘burgers should always be cooked all the way through until steaming hot. They should not be served rare or pink because of harmful bacteria may be present.’

The transmission prompted CIEH director for Wales, Kate Thompson, to write to the head of FSA Wales, Nina Purcell, warning that the failure of a top chef to understand FSA advice indicated a serious failure in FSA messaging.

Ms Thompson wrote to the FSA: ‘I am seriously concerned that millions of listeners across the UK have been exposed to this advice which has the potential to expose them to unacceptable risk. 

‘I would urge the FSA to contact the broadcaster so that FSA advice on the cooking of burgers can be effectively communicated to listeners and for the FSA to review its policy and messaging in respect of less than thoroughly cooked burgers as clearly it is causing confusion.’

The CIEH has long been concerned that providing dual advice to caterers and the public over rare burgers would inevitably cause confusion with caterers being told it is acceptable to serve rare burgers as long as other controls are in place.

An additional layer of confusion exists in that advice to caterers is contrary to that provided by the FSA’s own Advisory Committee on Microbiological Safety of Food, which states burgers must be cooked through

‘The fact that there is a different food safety message for caterers and consumers is clearly causing confusion as exampled by the fact we have a high-profile chef advocating to millions of listeners that it is safe to eat medium rare burgers cooked on a barbecue,’ said Ms Thompson. ‘  

The CIEH has also raised concerns that EHPs are still in limbo over the messaging required by caterers to inform their customers of the risks associated with eating rare burgers. Despite the FSA board calling for consistent messaging at point of sale at a meeting in September 2015 there has still been no progress on the sort of wording restaurants are expected to provide.

‘With no FSA guidance on messaging there is a question mark over whether EHPs can take action where customers are not provided any type of warning, meaning we are being left in a legislative grey area,’ points out Ms Thompson.  

The BBC was unwilling to comment on the transmission stating that the views expressed were the chef's personal opinion.      










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