People who eat burgers which are undercooked are putting their health at risk and could be exposing themselves to harmful bacteria that cause kidney failure, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has warned.
Reminding caterers and restaurants of the dangers of not cooking minced beef burgers thoroughly, it said 3 per cent of raw minced beef is known to be contaminated with a particular harmful type of E. coli known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.
The dangers of kidney failure caused by this bug are particularly acute among children under five and the elderly, it warned.
The authority said the safety of minced beef burgers depends on sufficient cooking to ensure the destruction of harmful pathogens. Minced beef burgers should be cooked to a minimum core (the thickest part of the burger) temperature of 75 degrees centigrade before serving.
Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the authority, said that while during the summer months, minced beef burgers are a highly popular go-to food for many people however, food safety should never be compromised for speed or to cater for trends in consumer taste.
“There should be no compromise on food safety,” she said. “We have had people become ill due to a serious food poisoning outbreak associated with undercooked beef burgers in a catering establishment. Chefs and caterers must ensure that minced beef burgers are cooked thoroughly before serving and waiting staff should not ask customers how they want their minced beef burgers cooked.”
She said all food service businesses had to have a food safety management system in place which identified the hazards and outlined 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. Regular checks should be carried out on the core temperature of minced beef burgers using a probe thermometer, as colour alone is not a reliable indicator.”
She also said that 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,” said Dr Byrne.