The rare old times


Sir, – There is no reason why Louis Lentin should be refused a request for a steak served “pink” (September 21st).

However, hamburgers and steak tartare are a different matter, as there is a serious risk associated with eating raw or undercooked minced beef.

During the butchering process, the surface of cuts of meat may become contaminated with bacteria, notably E.coli, from the intestines of the animal (regardless of the standards applied by the farmer and butcher). Cooking an intact piece of meat on the surface is sufficient to kill any such bacteria. However, when a piece of meat is minced, contamination on the surface can be spread to any part of the product.

Therefore, unless minced beef is cooked through, or alternatively irradiated to inactivate microbial contamination, contamination with E.coli may remain. Irradiation is routine in some countries, including the US, so eating rare hamburgers there is safe. However, Irish mince is not irradiated, so the process of cooking through is crucial. E.coli infection can be fatal, so anyone who wishes to eat rare or raw minced beef in Ireland should take note of these facts. – Yours, etc,


Marcus Beach,

Queensland, Australia.