London restaurant owners angry and confused over Westminster council's rare burger crackdown


John Hall
Wednesday 12 December 2012 15:00

There’s a bloody row brewing in Westminster as restaurants hit back at council attempts to control the way burgers are served.

Earlier this week it was revealed that Westminster council are to launch routine health and safety inspections in a huge crackdown on rare burgers.

The council denied banning restaurants from serving “bloody burgers”, but insisted it was taking the matter of undercooked meat in restaurants “seriously”.

A spokesman said: “The council wishes to make absolutely clear that food improvement notices are only served on restaurants that are not treating meat properly before it is minced.”

The Evening Standard today quoted several London restaurant staff angry and confused over the crackdown.

Jessie Newton, who works at Lucky Seven in Westbourne Park Road said: “We have always offered rare burgers because we are confident in the way we cook them”.

“Our regular customers know exactly how they like them and come back again and again. It seems pointless to turn them away, and I hope we don’t have to,” she added.

Kerry Lattanzio, manager at Automat, in Dover Street, said: “The mince in a burger is exposed to the air, so bacteria can be present on the inside.

“As a policy we offer the burgers as medium-well done, but if customer must ask for rare, we will serve it however they want it.

“If there are stricter enforcements coming in we certainly won’t be serving anything that will break the law, so we just won’t serve it.

“I like my burgers medium rare, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that to a customer.”

Confusion over the nature of the council’s controls has already led some of the capital’s best burger restaurants to refuse to serve customers gourmet bloody burgers for fear of reprisal.

A spokesman from Joe Allen’s in Exeter Street said: “We are serving our burgers well done at the moment. This is what we have been advised.”

James Armitage, Westminster City Council’s food health and safety manager, said: “This is not about banning under cooked burgers. This is about making sure customers are eating meat that is not a threat to their health.

“It is possible to produce burgers that can be eaten under cooked but strict controls are necessary for this,” he added.

He went on: “We have enlisted the UK’s top expert on E. Coli, Professor Hugh Pennington, to get this matter resolved and he has already outlined that rare minced meat which is not correctly cooked and prepared can kill – we have to take that seriously and we believe the restaurant involved falls well below the standards required.”

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