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31st Jul 2018

‘Serious food poisoning outbreak’ presented by beef burgers, warns FSAI

Kate Demolder

A number of cases have been reported.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has, on Tuesday, reminded caterers and restaurants of the dangers of not cooking minced beef burgers thoroughly to remove harmful bacteria.

Reportedly, 3 percent of raw minced beef used in Ireland is known to be contaminated by a particularly harmful type of E.coli which has been known to cause kidney failure.

This form of the bacterium – known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli – is particularly harmful to children and the elderly.

A downloadable factsheet has been published by the authority aiming to aid caterers in ensuring that consumers do not fall ill at the hand of undercooked burgers – a particularly popular order during the summer months.

The FSAI states that:

  • Minced beef burgers must be fully cooked to ensure they are safe to eat
  • Minced beef burgers should be cooked to a temperature of 75°C tested at the thickest part of the burger by a food thermometer or to one of the equivalent temperature-time combinations outlined in its factsheet
  • Caterers should not serve, offer or advertise undercooked or ‘pink’ minced beef burgers
  • Failure to serve minced beef burgers that are safe to eat can make people seriously ill and place a food business open to legal action

The FSAI added that it understands that customers may request undercooked or rare minced meat in burgers, however, they also declared that ‘this does not exempt a food business’s duty to sell safe food or protect it from potential prosecution.’

“There should be no compromise on food safety,” Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO of the FSAI says.

“We have had people become ill due to a serious food poisoning outbreak associated with undercooked beef burgers in a catering establishment.

“Foodservice businesses must have a food safety management system in place which identifies the hazards and outlines the critical control points to ensure food safety. Cooking food to the correct temperature is the critical control point for serving safe minced beef burgers,” she said.

“Consumers also need to ensure that when they are cooking minced beef burgers at home, that they are cooked until they are piping hot all the way through. Given the serious health risks associated with consuming undercooked minced beef burgers, this advice should not be taken lightly.”

Dr Byrne concluded that foodservice businesses are under legal obligation to provide a service that will not result in their consumers falling ill.

“Disclaimers on the menu advising on the dangers of eating undercooked minced beef burgers do not exempt caterers from their obligations under food law to serve only safe food.”