In addition to revising existing advice to consumers, the guidance has been expanded to include guidelines to the food industry on labelling by wholesale suppliers to caterers, manufacturers and retailers. It also emphasises the need for training in catering establishments. The changes are based on the recommendations of the Government's independent expert Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF).
Sir Kenneth's advice on the safe cooking of burgers includes:
consumers cooking burgers and similar minced meat products should follow the manufacturer's instructions. It is particularly important to ensure that burgers and similar minced meat products are thoroughly cooked so that they are piping hot throughout. Eating undercooked burgers which are rare in the middle may be dangerous;
barbecues - the cooking process is variable and difficult to control which means it is absolutely vital to ensure that burgers are thoroughly cooked so that they are piping hot throughout;
manufacturers and retailers - minced meat and minced meat products including burgers should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 70 degrees centigrade for two minutes or equivalent. Vendors of raw burgers should ensure that all burgers and similar minced meat products are supplied with adequate cooking instructions to comply with this recommendation. Cooking instructions should take into account factors such as whether the burger is frozen or chilled, the thickness and formulation of the burger, and the prescribed method of cooking.
The absence of pink meat in a burger after cooking is not, in itself, a guarantee that the burger has been adequately cooked, but despite its limitations it may provide an additional safety check for consumers.
It is therefore recommended that the advice to cook burgers until the juices run clear and there are no pink bits inside may be used where appropriate (eg when a burger contains only beef and no added salt) but it should always be accompanied by the other cooking instructions which achieve a minimum temperature of 70 degrees centigrade for two minutes or equivalent.
wholesale supplies to caterers - cartons of burgers (and other similar minced meat products) supplied by wholesalers for caterers should be labelled with a clear instruction that the product must always be cooked thoroughly so that it is piping hot right through to the centre. Minced meat and minced meat products including burgers should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 70 degrees centigrade for two minutes or equivalent;
caterers - vendors of cooked burgers and other similar minced meat products, for example caterers, have a specific legal obligation to identify and control any process steps that are critical to food safety (Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995, regulation 4(3)). The thorough cooking of minced meat products, including burgers to a temperature of 70 degrees centigrade for two minutes or equivalent, will be one such critical control. Caterers must ensure that their procedures achieve this and they should take into account the type of cooking equipment, its operating temperature, the temperature of the meat at the start of cooking, its thickness and any other relevant factors.
Caterers should consider the potential for undercooked burgers to cause disease and should not provide them to customers or, if specifically requested to do so, should remind the customer of the potential hazard.
training - verocytotoxin producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) infections could be significantly reduced if there was a better understanding of the need to avoid cross-contamination and to cook food properly. It is recommended that commercial food handlers focus training on methods for the safe and hygienic handling of food. Catering establishments should ensure that the staff know precisely what to do (eg the routine for safe cooking) and why it must be followed.
Previous advice to consumers was issued on 14 February 1991 by the then Chief Medical Officer, Sir Donald Acheson, who said that "(burgers) should be thoroughly cooked throughout...until the juices run clear and there are no pink bits inside."