New ruling means restaurants may no longer be able to offer burgers cooked rare or medium-rare.It is a far cry from the traditional burger sold at fast-food outlets. All over the country restaurants are putting “gourmet” burgers on the menu, offering them from rare to well done.
Now council officials are cracking down on the freedom to choose how your burger is done, warning restaurants not to offer them rare or even medium-rare.
A number of celebrity chefs are affected by the move, including Gordon Ramsay, whose Maze Grill restaurant sells a burger for £12, Angela Hartnett, whose York and Albany’s bar menu includes burgers, and the Soho House chain, run by Nick Jones, the husband of broadcaster Kirsty Young.
All face being asked at their next routine inspection how they offer their burgers after the decision by Westminster city council, which regulates food safety in more restaurants than any other local authority.
The decision is expected to be followed by other councils, but critics fear it could lead to questions over the safety of rare steaks and raw meat dishes such as steak tartare.
The policy is to be the subject of a legal ruling.
After routine inspections by environmental health officers, Westminster council challenged the way Davy’s was serving its £13.95 burgers at one of its restaurants in central London. Davy’s has taken the case to the High Court, which experts say could set a legal precedent as to whether or not diners will be able to order meat rare.
A Davy’s spokesman said: “The burgers are produced from high quality ingredients and Davy’s contends that it has safe measures in place to serve rare or medium-rare burgers.”
James Armitage, the council’s food health and safety manager, said: “This is about making sure customers are eating meat that is not a threat to their health. It is possible to produce burgers that can be eaten undercooked, but strict controls are essential.
“We have enlisted the UK’s top expert on E. coli, Prof Hugh Pennington, to get this matter resolved and he has outlined that rare minced meat that is not correctly cooked and prepared can kill.”
But John Cadieux, the executive head chef for the Burger and Lobster chain, said: “If you follow the guidelines to the letter then you’re going to destroy the burger industry.
“Not only that but you’re opening a Pandora’s box, because where do you finish? Steak tartare, runny eggs … the list is endless.”
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), there are no rules banning the sale of raw or rare meat by restaurants or caterers.
Tony Lewis, of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: the case would have “nationwide implications”.
“At present the guidance from the FSA is that for burgers the meat should be cooked at 158F (70C) for two minutes,” he said. “If Westminster loses the case we will have to reassess.”
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