Food safety rules must apply to everyone

| November 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

A court order preventing a single restaurant from serving a specific dish on food safety grounds wouldn’t normally attract much attention from the media in the UK. But when the restaurant concerned bears the name of celebrity chef Raymond Blanc the situation is rather different.

The banned dish served at Brasserie Blanc in London’s Covent Garden included lamb’s liver, cooked lightly to remain pink and so not complying with the Food Standards Agency guidelines for cooked meats to reach 70°C for at least two minutes. According to the BBC, Westminster Council officials had their attention drawn to the liver dish after two diners contracted campylobacteriosis, although no direct link has been proven. The Council served a notice to the restaurant requiring that the dish be modified or withdrawn, a request Brasserie Blanc ignored – hence the court order. The restaurant has now withdrawn the liver completely, after complaining that the required ‘safe cooking’ procedure rendered the dish inedible.

A short while later I happened upon a radio discussion of the affair, wherein two ‘food writers’ were encouraged to state their disapproval of Westminster Council’s action, which they dismissed as unnecessary interference with the preparation of high quality food by professional chefs. Apparently, provided the ingredients are carefully sourced and prepared, the risk is minimal and doesn’t require any input from meddling officialdom.

As far as I can see, this unfounded confidence in high end catering is driven mainly by food snobbery rather than by any scientific evidence. Would the same laissez faire attitude be expressed in support of a kebab shop in the East End I wonder? Liver is a high-risk food for Campylobacter contamination, as witnessed by several outbreaks last year linked to undercooked chicken liver dishes in restaurants. Lamb’s liver may carry a lower risk than chicken liver, but it remains a significant one. If it hasn’t been thoroughly cooked, serving it in a famous restaurant won’t make it any safer.

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