Rare burgers – fad or folly?


Following on from my previous post here about the UK’s-but-not-Scotland’s Food Standards Agency giving a qualified green light to the commercial preparation and sale of undercooked burgers, I’ve made a short video setting out my objections. Click here to go to the video on YouTube.

And for those who insist on reading my turgid prose instead of listening to my sparkling delivery, it’s below the fold. Continue reading

An amuse bouche of undercooked minced beef

This evening I’m giving a talk to a Google hangout of food safety professionals on the risks of eating undercooked beef burgers. And that’s on a day when we learn that Highland Game in Dundee have been implicated in an outbreak of E. coli O157 associated with venison products which may have been undercooked by consumers.

With good timing, Megan Rex, who blogs at gottobegourmet.com, today posted a review of a burger she ate at Honest Burgers restaurant in Tooting, south London. As you can see from the photo on her blog, it was served rare.


I thought it would be interesting to get her views on eating raw minced beef and whether the restaurant provided any information to consumers on the risks, so I’ve left a comment on her post. She’s replied, just as I write this, and says:

Thanks for your comment Patrick. I actually did mention that I’d heard it wasn’t the best to eat burgers very rare but only briefly as I didn’t think it was the right kind of post for it. It’s an interesting point and I’ll look forward to reading your post on it. I think from my perspective as an average joe consumer, I’m prepared to take the risk as I like the flavour and texture. I’m probably an idiot for saying/thinking that, but you could ask the same of why people smoke or drink alcohol. I’m sure that Honest Burgers wouldn’t be putting people at risk as they’re a well established company so you would need to speak to them to get their take on it.

I had a wee look on Honest Burgers website, to see whether they provided any information about the risks of eating undercooked food along with their menu, and they don’t. However, their menu does include this statement:

honest_burgers_menu_statementThey also have a kids menu, but don’t say anything about whether children are served undercooked burgers or not. I’d be very worried if that was the case. I’ve emailed them to see what their views are as restaurateurs on the subject, so I’ll add anything I get from them.

Farmer says refrigerating raw milk as soon as it leaves the goat helps kill potentially harmful bacteria.

Er, no it doesn’t.

This news item comes from Alaska, home of such intellectual luminaries as Sarah Palin. Here, a couple of goat farmers have set up one of those infamous herd-share arrangements to supply raw milk to the small town of Petersburg. But why are people wanting to drink raw goats milk? According to the farmer, Tabitha Nelson, it’s because theirs is “quality milk that doesn’t have all that industrialized stuff in it”.

Tabitha Nelson, child and goats

Tabitha Nelson, child and goats

And people buy into this tosh. According to the same news report, Petersburg resident Gina Esposito owns a share of the milk and it’s worried about getting sick from processed milk. “The more you learn about where food comes from, the more paralyzed you feel about what you want to buy,” she said.

For those who haven’t heard of it before, herd-sharing is one of the ways some American states allow people to get around food safety laws prohibiting the sale of unpasteurised milk and milk products. All you have to do is buy a share in the herd and bingo! you’re no longer a customer but an owner and you’re merely sharing the products as a dividend of ownership.

I’ve written before about a cow-sharing scam in Tennessee:

The shocking story of an outbreak of E. coli O157 infection associated with the consumption of raw milk came to my attention as a result of a story on US Food Safety. Nine children became ill after drinking raw milk from a farm in Knox County, in a state where it is illegal to sell unpasteurised milk. Five of  those children require hospital treatment and three went on to develop the severe, and irreversible, consequences of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). [read more here]

And in February this year I also wrote about the risks of drinking raw milk.

Later this evening I’ll be posting a link to a YouTube talk I’ve prepared on suchlike nonsense in the realms of rare beefburgers and the dangers of E. coli O157. Watch this space.

By the way, thank to Doug Powell and the excellent barfblog.com for the story. You couldn’t make this stuff up.