Burger joints banned from selling pink burgers
What!? Shocking ?! Stupid law! Screamed Twitter. What had changed?
Well nothing really...apart from a bit of burger publicity.
Last year in Glasgow 22 people became ill with E. coli infections. An NHS report linked the outbreak to beef burgers served at the SSE Hydro which could have been undercooked. Glasgow City Council Environmental Health, like all Environmental Health departments regard raw food as unsafe unless properly treated.
This is the main point here. As far as we know, you can get your burger any way you want. There are no rules against this, but food businesses must be able to demonstrate that they have the necessary additional controls in place to allow them to prepare and serve the burgers safely. This includes cooking to 75 degrees celsius and other policies set out by Food Standards Scotland (FSS). A copy of the letter sent from FSS can be found here.
Food Standards Scotland released a statement in September 2015 outlining their position. This is the guidance used by Scottish environmental health agencies.
"Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has not changed its policy on rare burgers. The steps that businesses are required to take to protect consumers should be through thorough cooking in accordance with current Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) guidance or through a combination of controls verified by a food business operator that will provide equivalent protection. This would mean that protective measures should not require consumer advice about additional risk as the food operator has a legal obligation to ensure the food is safe to eat. "
We checked with Environmental Health in Glasgow and they said:
"When inspecting premises serving burgers, Glasgow City Council Environmental Health would expect controls to be in place which are equivalent to those in the Advisory Committee on Microbiological Safety of Food Report on the Safe Cooking of Burgers (click to download the PDF).
The most common approach to achieving this is for a business to cook the burgers to a core temperature of 75°C, however, the business may choose to follow other accepted time/temperature combinations such as a core temperature of 70°C for 2 minutes. We recognise that in some instances these temperatures can be achieved and the burger may still be pink in the centre, therefore, the fact that a burger is pink does not necessarily mean that it has been undercooked. However, we would emphasise that in the home, people should cook burgers thoroughly until the juices run clear.
It is possible for businesses to put in place safe methods for the production of rare burgers and some businesses in Glasgow have done so. One example would be steaming or searing joints of meat to achieve 75°C on the outside prior to mincing and then forming burgers with strict cross contamination controls in place. Where a business can demonstrate that effective food hygiene controls are in place there would be no reason for Environmental Health to stop the sale of rare burgers."
Does this mean no pink burgers? Nope, not at all, but the problem with rare or pink burgers is that if the surface of a steak is contaminated by bacteria, they stay on the surface and are killed by proper cooking. In a burger the meat is minced, so the surface part of the meat is mixed in with the rest. Therefore there's more risk of bacteria not being killed.
We love a pink burger and have been willing to take that risk for a better taste. However, the guidance is there and environmental health departments have to adhere to it. You can still get your burger the way you want it, but your burger joint might not want the hassle of the paperwork to ensure it complies.