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Are rare burgers really that bad for you?

burgerAre rare burgers safe?

It’s often the case that the rarer meat is, the juicier it is, which is why several high-end burger restaurants are preferring to serve rare burgers which are pink in the middle. We eat rare steaks, they’re both made of beef, so what’s the difference?

The answer is that the outside of the meat is the part which can become contaminated and could lead to food poisoning. When we cook a steak we sear it on all sides, thus killing any harmful bacteria. Since burgers are made with minced beef, the potential for bacterial contamination is much higher. This is because every tiny morsel of mince has its own surface area. When these are compressed into burger patties, the outsides of the mince effectively become the insides of the burger. If not cooked all the way through, bacteria could still be present within the burger.

The Food Standards Agency has always maintained that the safest way to serve burgers is to cook them all the way through. However recently, in response to pressure from restaurateurs, the FSA Board has voted in favour of a set of controls which must be in place if companies want to serve rare burgers to customers. These include:

  • informing the local authority that they intend to sell rare or lightly-cooked burgers
  • providing advice to consumers about the risk of consuming burgers which are not thoroughly cooked
  • only sourcing meat form establishments with verified and validated stringent food safety management controls in place
  • the burgers should be served piping hot

The above controls only apply to restaurants. If you are cooking burgers at home, the FSA still recommends ensuring the burgers are cooked all the way through to reduce the risk of potential food poisoning. Of course it is also essential that raw meat is stored in the appropriate manner and that hands, surfaces and utensils are clean. For more information on basic food hygiene click here.