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‘Ambiguous’ rules leave chefs unsure

By Angela Frewin

Chefs need clearer guidelines on whether or not lightly cooked meals such as rare steak pose too great a food-poisoning risk to remain on menus, claims a leading food safety consultant.

Stephen Rhodes says that many of his clients remain uncertain whether to continue to make pink pƒtés, raw steaks and sauces using raw or even runny eggs. While regulations stipulate that most foods be cooked to above 75ºC, Rhodes says they are unclear about the exemptions.

Rhodes believes restaurants, enforcement officers, regulation setters and consumers should come to some consensus on whether certain risks were acceptable, or whether to go 100% for safety.

Michelin-starred chef Simon Haigh, of Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, agreed this could be useful as current regulations were “very ambiguous”.

His environmental health officer suggested putting disclaimers on the menu outlining the risks for certain dishes (one route suggested by Rhodes).

Haigh believed that people should make their own decisions: “Everybody knows certain things are bad for them but, like smoking, they will still carry on.” He added that they would snap up T-bone steaks, if allowed.

The Department of Health has issued new guidelines on the safe cooking of burgers and other minced meat products to avoid E coli poisoning.

Caterers should heat them to 70ºC for two minutes, taking into account the type of cooking equipment, its operating temperature, the thickness of the meat and its starting temperature.

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