Many adults eat undercooked burgers

Higher risk of food poisoning
  • Deborah Condon

Over half of Irish adults consume undercooked burgers when eating out in restaurants, despite the risk of food poisoning, a new survey has revealed.

The survey by Safefood of over 1,000 adults, most of whom were aged between 30 and 49, revealed that 96% of people consider themselves well informed about food, yet 51% consume undercooked burgers in restaurants.

However, 65% said they would reconsider this choice if they knew there was a risk of food poisoning.

The findings were released to coincide with Safefood's new campaign, ‘Burger Fever', which aims to educate the public on the importance of only consuming burgers that have been cooked all the way through.

"Mince used in hamburgers is a higher risk as the food poisoning bacteria that live on the surface of the beef is then mixed through the middle of the burger when the beef is minced, so in effect, the outside is now on the inside. The only way to ensure that any bacteria in the middle of the burger is killed off is to ensure that the burger is cooked well done," explained Dr Gary Kearney, director of food science at Safefood.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend in restaurants of serving burgers that are cooked to preference or less than well done. This has raised concerns among regulatory authorities such as the HSE and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). As a result, earlier this year, the FSAI issued new advice to caterers to only serve burgers that have been cooked all the way through.

Most people will recover from food poisoning without any lasting effects, however some can suffer long-term effects.

"Some types of E. coli that are harmless to cows can be very dangerous to people. The biggest worry is a type of E. coli called VTEC, which causes severe diarrhoea. About one in 10 people who get VTEC diarrhoea will develop severe complications affecting the blood and kidneys. The biggest risk is to children and older people," explained Dr Martin Cormican of the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG),

He emphasised that if there is VTEC in the middle of your burger, ‘only proper cooking will kill it'.

"If your burger is not well cooked in the middle, you are taking a big risk. Eating burgers that are pink in the middle is a bit like driving without a seatbelt - you might get away with it for years but if something goes wrong and you are harmed, will you still think it was worth it?" he commented.

Meanwhile, Dr Kearney highlighted the fact that consuming a burger is not the same as consuming a steak.

"A burger is not like a steak which is often eaten medium or medium rare, so we are reminding people that the safest way to enjoy burgers this summer and beyond is to always ask for your burger to be well cooked," he added.

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