The Food Standards Authority (FSA) have told local authorities not to take formal action against food businesses who serve pink or undercooked burgers providing they print warnings on the menus and put appropriate measures in place to control risks of E.coli infections, including a validated Food Safety Management System.
The FSA director of Policy, Steve Wearne, told delegates at the CIEH and TIFSIP conference that the risks were acceptable for businesses that have validated a Food Safety Management System. He continued, that this has the potential to offer better public health control, rather than banning the process.
However – after the annual conference this year, some concerns were raised amongst those who attended and the FSA may have to rethink their approach.
Jenny Morris, Head of the Institute of Food Safety Integrity and Protection, claimed it was still unclear what constituted a properly validated Food Safety Management System for the production of undercooked burgers and Environmental Health Officers will struggle to make consistent enforcement decisions unless they are given examples of what a good, well-validated Food Safety Management System should look like.
Outbreaks of E.coli have occurred in the past due to burgers being undercooked. In the US, four children died as a result of this in 1993, and a further 732 people were ill with 195 hospitalised. Closer to home, an outbreak arose last year in Glasgow with 22 people affected and 3 hospitalised. In order to avoid such cases reoccurring, the FSA must now consider whether or not this operation will be worth the risks presented.
Despite this the message remains the same. If a business has a validated Food Safety Management System and prints a warning on the menu, the local authority should avoid enforcement action. The FSA intend to revisit this matter later in the year.
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