Westminster safety chiefs were today accused of a “massive overreaction” after admitting there has been no recorded case of food poisoning from eating rare burgers in the West End.
The ‘Evening Standard’ reports;
“Asked about the number of examples of E.coli poisoning in the borough that have been traced to burgers, the council’s strategic director for city management Leith Penny said in an email seen by the Standard: “None, I’m glad to say.”
The disclosure provoked disbelief in London’s restaurant scene where rare and medium rare burgers have been taken off menus after council inspectors ordered a St James’s wine bar to change the way they cooked them.
Mr Penny said today: “While the incidence of E-Coli outbreaks is low, they are potentially life-threatening when they do occur so the council has a duty to protect consumers – we have seen cases in America and on the continent linked to rare burgers and minced beef.
“What we are advising is entirely in line with the health advice put forward by the Food Standards Agency. Westminster City Council is not ‘banning’ raw burgers. We are asking businesses to have important controls in place to make sure that they do not put their customers at risk from bacteria in undercooked meat.”
Daniel Young of the Young & Foodish blog said: “It is a massive overreaction. There are also increased cancer risks associated with overcooked burgers. Are food inspectors going to poke thermometers into every piece of meat served in London?”
Two-Michelin star chef Tom Aikens said in a Tweet: “They have got to be kidding, all you rare and med rare burger lovers stand up & protest. Its up to the customers !!!!!”
In his email to Westminster Labour group leader Paul Dimoldenberg Mr Penny added: “Of course, E.coli is not the only pathogen that is relevant to serving undercooked meat, but it’s by far the most dangerous.
Hence our concern to ensure that rare and medium rare burgers are properly prepared — an approach supported by the Food Standards Agency.”
But Mr Dimoldenberg said: “Obviously it is the council’s job to make people aware of the the dangers of serving undercooked food but this does seem heavy handed and ultra-precautionary when the West End is in need of support economically and there is no evidence of harm.””