Can the service and consumption of rare burgers be microbiologically safe, regarding the potential public health risks associated with Escherichia coli O157?
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This review has been inspired by a dramatic increase amongst the popularity of the consumption of rare burgers. A recent study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) identified that 30% of people believed restaurants should have the option to serve burgers rare. The principle remains, however, that consumers are not aware of the potential associated health risks. The following review identifies that there is an epidemiological link between undercooked burgers and Escherichia coli O157 (E.coli O157). This is supported by previous outbreaks discussed within this paper. Thermal inactivation models were assessed regarding the predicted level of risk to human health, finding the risk is significantly increased with undercooked burgers, in comparison to those well done. E.coli O157 is a rare pathogen known to cause severe gastroenteritis, with symptoms ranging from watery diarrhoea and abdominal pains, to bloody diarrhoea (haemolytic colitis). The organism has a very low infective dose, and has been known to cause fatalities or severe illnesses such as Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS). There are currently no therapeutic treatments available for complications. The literature was critically reviewed to outline why E.coli O157 is of particular concern with undercooked burgers, reflecting on previous outbreaks; food hygiene legislation; recent case law, and risk reduction strategies. The case law illustrates the current issues relating to the service of rare burgers, especially considering the flexibility in approach to European legislation. The court rulings were critically analysed against scientific opinions of experts such as Professor Pennington, identifying a lack of awareness regarding the potential public health risks. The evaluation of the literature found that there are numerous risk reduction strategies, including: sear and shave; cooking processes with varying time/temperature combinations, and supplier assurances. It was concluded that although various controls exist, there is still the possibility for the introduction of E.coli O157.
BSc (Hons) Environmental Health
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