Irish adults risk food poisoning by eating undercooked burgers

An online survey by Safefood has found that 51 per cent of Irish adults have reported eating undercooked burgers in restaurants.

While respondents listed a range of factors as to why they eat undercooked burgers, ranging from taste and confidence in the food preparation, 65 per cent said they would reconsider this choice if they knew there was a risk of food poisoning.

This research underpins the launch of Safefood’s new campaign, ‘Burger Fever’, which has been developed to educate the public on the importance of only eating burgers that are cooked through to prevent contracting serious and sometimes life-threatening food poisoning.

Dr Gary Kearney, director of food science at Safefood, said: “Mince used in hamburgers is a higher risk as the food poisoning bacteria that live on the surface of the beef (steak ) 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 are killed off is to ensure that the burger is cooked well done.”

The growing trend of serving burgers cooked to preference or less than well done in restaurants across Ireland has raised concerns for regulatory authorities.

Earlier this year, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland issued advice to caterers to only serve burgers that are safe to eat by cooking the meat all the way through. While most people who get food poisoning recover without lasting effects, some E-coli in particular carry the risk of more serious long-term effects.

Dr Martin Cormican, professor of bacteriology at National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG ), commented: “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. VTEC 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. 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.”

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