Fancy food ain’t safe food: UK-steak-house edition (Jamie Oliver is a food-safety idiot) and quinoa ain’t steak

Ruki Sayid of the Mirror writes the meat supplier behind Wetherspoon’s sudden move to axe steak for its Steak Club menu is at the centre of a food hygiene investigation.

The Food Standards Agency revealed Russell Hume’s sites have been inspected and products recalled after allegations it was in “serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations.”

The firm has previously supplied meat for Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, but bosses today confirmed that they switched suppliers as soon as they became aware of problems.

Following a tip, the FSA carried out a spot check on the firm’s Birmingham site and then sent teams to other locations which also failed to meet regulations.

The FSA said: “There is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume.

“However, we are concerned about the poor practices in place at their premises so that is why we have taken proportionate action to ensure no meat can leave their sites at present.

“We are continuing to assess the situation.”

Customers were up in arms when Wetherspoon scrapped steak from its menu without warning at its 900 pubs.

The decision meant servings of the Aberdeen Angus rump steak, sirloin steak and gammon were unavailable to order as customers were reportedly offered quinoa and halloumi salad alternatives instead.

One furious diner told how he stormed out of a branch in Scarborough when he learned of the Steak Club shortcomings.

James Jarvis, 27, told The Sun : “One of their suggestions was a quinoa salad with grilled halloumi. I came in for a steak — not a poncey salad!”

While Michael Rousell, 62, who visited a Wetherspoon in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, told the newspaper: “I can’t believe a multi- million pound organisation like Wetherspoon can’t sort this out ­— it beggars belief.”

A notice apparently pictured at one pub read: “Due to a supplier failure, the following meals are unavailable: 8oz and 14oz Aberdeen Angus rump steak, 8oz sirloin steak, 5oz and 10z gammon.”

Weird because their old steak also sucked: No one likes Chipotle’s new steak

After all of their food safety issues, Chipotle had to change the way they make a lot of their menu items, including steak. Now, steak is cooked on low heat at an offsite facility, and when it gets to stores it’s marinated and grilled.


Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told Business Insider, “If there is any difference, it’s that the steak may be more tender than it was before,” to which we say, LOL. There’s no way that’s true.

Lots of customers feel the same way. There’s a Reddit post dedicated to solving the mystery called, “What happened to the taste?” So far, there are 27 comments, but this one seems to sum it up: “The new steak sucks, plain and simple.”

Other Redditors agree. “It’s dry, overcooked, and therefore chewy. I actually just had ‘fresh’ steak last night (they had just pulled it off the grill and sliced it) and it was still dry and overcooked.”

“Used to be a three time a week regular, same with a bunch of friends,” said another. “Anyone who was a steak lover including my girlfriend has stopped going really.”

Others argued it was harder to cook tasty steak with the new method, especially when preparing steak until it reached the required temperature for food safety.

steak.therm.jun.16“To me, this new steak never has a chance to be medium rare,”writes one Chipotle employee. “It goes from cold to medium well in two minutes on the grill.”

“Customer reactions so far? Not good,” another Redditor claiming to be a Chipotle employee wrote in March. “Many are saying the steak isn’t rare enough and that is tastes different… poor quality. I use to have a lot of pride in my steak, now that pride has faded.”

Twitter users are also complaining.

Chipotle’s food safety nightmare just keeps getting worse. For now, maybe stick to sofritos. Or, just eat somewhere else.

Like at our guest house in Maubuisson, France, where I went into town the other day and got these two from the butcher – shown against Hubbell tiny hands that are much larger than Trump tiny hands, for comparative purposes – and prepared on charcoal until close to 140F and then sat for 10 minutes.

It was really f*ucking good.

Are you sure about that? Is that roast needle tenderized? Does it matter?

After a few days at the beach and being disappointed with restaurant food, it was good to be home, with my BBQ and a rib roast.

It was fairly delicious.

prime.ribBut the question arises, was it needle tenderized, potentially passing pathogens from the exterior to the interior and requiring a higher cooking temperature for safety.

I know the butcher where I purchased the meat, he knows what I do, and they cut the carcass up at the shop, so I believe him when he says it wasn’t needle tenderized.

All food purchases are faith-based.

Boneless beef rib eye roasts were surface inoculated on the fat side with ca. 5.7 log CFU/g of a five-strain cocktail of Salmonella for subsequent searing, cooking, and warm holding using preparation methods practiced by restaurants surveyed in a medium-size Midwestern city.

A portion of the inoculated roasts was then passed once through a mechanical blade tenderizer. For both intact and nonintact roasts, searing for 15 min at 260°C resulted in reductions in Salmonella populations of ca. 0.3 to 1.3 log CFU/g.

For intact (nontenderized) rib eye roasts, cooking to internal temperatures of 37.8 or 48.9°C resulted in additional reductions of ca. 3.4 log CFU/g. For tenderized (nonintact) rib eye roasts, cooking to internal temperatures of 37.8 or 48.9°C resulted in additional reductions of ca. 3.1 or 3.4 log CFU/g, respectively.

Pathogen populations remained relatively unchanged for intact roasts cooked to 37.8 or 48.9°C and for nonintact roasts cooked to 48.9°C when held at 60.0°C for up to 8 h. In contrast, pathogen populations increased ca. 2.0 log CFU/g in nonintact rib eye cooked to 37.8°C when held at 60.0°C for 8 h. Thus, cooking at low temperatures and extended holding at relatively low temperatures as evaluated herein may pose a food safety risk to consumers in terms of inadequate lethality and/or subsequent outgrowth of Salmonella, especially if nonintact rib eye is used in the preparation of prime rib, if on occasion appreciable populations of Salmonella are present in or on the meat, and/or if the meat is not cooked adequately throughout.

Microbiological safety of commercial prime rib preparation methods: Thermal inactivation of Salmonella in mechanically tenderized rib eye

Journal of Food Protection, Number 12, December 2015

Alexandra Calle, Anna C.S. Porto-Fett, Bradley A. Shoyer, John B. Luchansky, and Harshavardhan Thippareddi

Is the finger test accurate for steak safety? Better to just stick it in

Objectives: To evaluate the reliability of using the thenar eminence to determine steak doneness.

barfblog.Stick It InDesign: Double-blinded, cross-sectional study.

Setting: Various home kitchens in Melbourne, Australia.

Participants: Amateur/home cooks.

Main outcome measures: The accuracy of the finger test (the tenseness of the thenar eminence in different hand positions) for determining how well a random beef steak has been cooked (rare v medium-rare v medium v well-done). We also examined whether participants improved with practice and whether the accuracy of the finger test was correlated with age, sex, cooking experience or self-rated steak-cooking ability.

Results: Twenty-six participants completed the study, and showed that they could accurately determine the doneness of a steak with the finger test better than chance (χ2[1, n = 156] = 9.88; P < 0.01). Their overall accuracy, however, was low (36%). There was no correlation between accuracy in application of the finger test with the other collected participant and steak variables.

Conclusions: The finger test can be used by amateur cooks to determine beef steak doneness. However, the low overall accuracy of the test suggests that more invasive tests are to be recommended for determining steak doneness for its health benefits.


 Studying the Thenar Eminence of Amateur cooKs (STEAK) study: a double-blinded, cross-sectional study

Toby I Vinycomb, Amanda M-Y Tan, Manu Bhatnagar and Joon Ming Wong

Med J Aust 2015; 203 (11): 467-469

Cyclones, rain, and temperature-verified steak

During a morning of unrelenting and ongoing cyclone-related rain (yes, Brisbane gets weather too, not just Mass.) hockey skating and Chapman embarrassingly wearing a Leafs jersey (although my kid had one on this a.m., but Chapman should know better), I decided, why not barbeque for lunch.

145 F, rested for 10 minutes.


How long until chefs catch up? Turn steaks every two minutes for safety

Keeping with the internalization theme, do beef steaks that are needle or blade tenderized need to be cooked to a higher temperature to ensure food safety? Or can other procedures like regular turning ensure safety. (I’ve done this for a long time because it led to a better product, but chefs are stuck with the one-turn principle.)

Colin Gill and colleagues write:

Beef steaks (2 cm thick) were each inoculated at three sites in the central plane with Escherichia coli O157:H7 at 5.9 ± 0.3 log CFU per site. Temperatures at steak centers were monitored during cooking on a hot plate or the grill of a gas barbeque. Steaks were cooked in hank.hill.bbqgroups of five using the same procedures and cooking each steak to the same temperature, and surviving E. coli O157:H7 at each site was enumerated. When steaks cooked on the hot plate were turned over every 2 or 4 min during cooking to between 56 and 62°C, no E. coli O157:H7 was recovered from steaks cooked to ≥58 or 62°C, respectively. When steaks were cooked to ≤71°C and turned over once during cooking, E. coli O157:H7 was recovered from steaks in groups turned over after ≤8 min but not from steaks turned over after 10 or 12 min.

E. coli O157:H7 was recovered in similar numbers from steaks that were not held or were held for 3 min after cooking when steaks were turned over once after 4 or 6 min during cooking. When steaks were cooked on the grill with the barbeque lid open and turned over every 2 or 4 min during cooking to 63 or 56°C, E. coli O157:H7 was recovered from only those steaks turned over at 4-min intervals and cooked to 56°C. E. coli O157:H7 was recovered from some steaks turned over once during cooking on the grill and held or not held after cooking to 63°C. E. coli O157:H7 was not recovered from steaks turned over after 4 min during cooking to 60°C on the grill with the barbeque lid closed or when the lid was closed after 6 min.

Apparently, the microbiological safety of mechanically tenderized steaks can be assured by turning steaks over at intervals of about 2 200297777-001min during cooking to ≥60°C in an open skillet or on a barbecue grill. When steaks are turned over only once during cooking to ≥60°C, microbiological safety may be assured by covering the skillet or grill with a lid during at least the final minutes of cooking.


Effects of selected cooking procedures on the survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in inoculated steaks cooked on a hot plate or gas barbecue grill

Journal of Food Protection, Number 6, June 2014, pp. 872-1042, pp. 919-926(8)

Gill, C. O., Devos, J., Youssef, M. K., Yang, X.

How is a rare burger defined? Why there’s no such thing as simple food safety advice

The UK Food Standards Agency is full of food safety contradictions: cook meat until it is piping hot; wash watercress to avoid E. coli; and, pink steaks are safe.

Back in August, according to the Daily Mail, district judge Elizabeth Roscoe ruled that London-based Davey’s could continue to serve tenderizingPagerare beefburgers, rejecting claims they were a health risk.

“There is a balance to be struck between ensuring the safety of the public and allowing them the freedom of choice that they would wish and have a right to expect.”

The council wanted Davy’s beef supplier to sear and shave the outside of whole cuts of meat to remove any harmful bugs.

Davy’s argued that its suppliers could be trusted to supply beef that could be safely eaten.

But Westminster council’s food safety chief James Armitage, “We are not saying burgers should not be eaten rare  or medium – merely that they should be prepared in a way that makes them as safe as practicably possible.”

What are those controls?

Before the judge’s ruling, the Daily Mail published a bit about how FSA was going to advise that all meat be cooked until no pink remained.

Color is a lousy indicator.

Stephen Humphreys, director of communications at FSA, explained, “We have issued no guidance that would prevent steaks being served rare, we have no plans to do so and why would we?

Steak is safe to eat ‘rare’. Whole cuts of beef or lamb, steaks, cutlets and joints only have germs on the outside, so as long as the outside is cooked any potentially harmful germs that could cause food poisoning will be killed.”

Not quite.

Steaks that have been needle tenderized have the albeit-low potential for pathogens to be entered into the meat, and requiring a higher cooking temperature.

Food safety advice is never simple.

food porn for one

I take a fair amount of teasing from my girlfriends here in Australia.

“Amy, what’s Doug making for dinner tonight?”

“Stone crab.”

“Poor Amy.”

And last time Doug took a trip away, one of them invited me over a few times because she was rather convinced I don’t know how to cook. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve convinced other people I cannot cook so that they will feed me delicious food. But alas, I can cook. I just gave it up when I met Doug because I was terrified of killing us by cross-contaminating or undercooking our food. And now I’m out of practice.

On one of our first dates, I invited Doug to my house for dinner and a movie. After I get to a certain level of hungry, I can no longer think. And as we weighed options for ordering take out, I hit that point. I finally blurted out, “Let’s go to the grocery store and just buy some steak and salad.” Doug says that’s what won him over.

steakforoneTonight Sorenne-the-Ravenous only wanted to eat a sandwich, but after too many frozen chicken thingies and wondering why Australians don’t say whether the chicken is pre-cooked or raw, I needed some real food. Broiled porterhouse steak cooked to an internal temperature of 150F and left to rest while the temperature rose slightly, rosemary and sea salt chips, English cucumber and 4 leaf salad with cherry tomatoes, balsamic and olive oil. Yum. But a lonely dinner for one.

Health Canada to investigate mechanically tenderized meat products

On Christmas Eve, 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced some 248,000 pounds of tenderized beef were being recalled and was eventually linked to 21 E. coli O157:H7 infections in 16 states.

In Sept. 2012, at least four people in Canada were sickened by E. coli O157:H7 in needle or blade tenderized meat linked to the XL outbreak and sold at Costco.

Needle or blade tenderized beef is typically used on tougher cuts of beef or pork to break down muscle fibers or to inject marinade into meat. About 50 million pounds of needle- or blade-tenderized meat is produced in the U.S. each month, according to a federal study, but it’s not required to be labeled.

All hamburger should be cooked to a thermometer-verified 160F because it’s all ground up – the outside, which can be laden with poop, is on the inside. With steaks, the thought has been that searing on the outside will take care of any poop bugs like E. coli and the inside is (sorta?) clean. But what if needles pushed the E. coli on the outside of the steak to the inside?

Luchansky et al. wrote in the July 2009 Journal of Food Protection that based on inoculation studies, cooking on a commercial gas grill is effective at eliminating relatively low levels of the pathogen that may be distributed throughout a blade-tenderized steak. But others recommend such meat be labeled because it may require a higher cooking temperature.

In Aug. 2012, U.S. consumer groups wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to immediately approve a proposal to label mechanically tenderized beef products. Without labeling to identify these products as mechanically tenderized and non-intact products, and information on how to properly cook these products, consumers may be unknowingly at risk for foodborne illness. Labeling of mechanically tenderized products would allow consumers to identify these products in the supermarket.

As early as 1999, USDA/FSIS publicly stated that mechanically tenderized meat products were considered non-intact products because the product had been pierced and surface pathogens could have been translocated to the interior of the product.

USDA/FSIS further stated, “As a result, customary cooking of these products may not be adequate to kill the pathogens.”  At that time, USDA/FSIS said that they would not require a label for these products but strongly encouraged industry to label all non-intact, mechanically tenderized meat products with safe food handling guidance. To date, industry labeling of these products is rare.

In June 2010, the Conference for Food Protection petitioned FSIS to put forward regulations that would require mechanically tenderized products to be labeled.

Now, with glacial haste, Health Canada has started a review of the science around the safe handling and cooking of beef products that are mechanically tenderized, to identify what advice should be communicated to consumers and the food industry.

Some meat handlers and even some Canadians at home tenderize cuts of beef, including steaks and roasts, using machines or tools made for this process.

While this review is ongoing, and to make sure that any bacteria that may be present in the meat are killed, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are encouraging Canadians to cook mechanically tenderized steak and beef cuts to an internal temperature of at least 71 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit).

Why buy expensive steak if it has to be cooked to 160F? Buy cheap hamburger.

And how would consumers know what’s a needle tenderized cut of meat? There’s no labeling.

Health Canada is also actively working with the retail and food industry to support its efforts to identify mechanically tenderized beef for consumers through labels, signage or other means. The industry expects to start putting these measures in place over the next two to three weeks. In the meantime, should consumers be uncertain if a product has been mechanically tenderized, they are encouraged to ask the food seller or food service provider.

Is that E. coli really gone? What happens to O157 when slow-cooking roast beef or grilling blade tenderized steaks

Many will be bringing out the beef for a celebratory New Year’s feast (I’ve taken to steaming or grilling oysters on the BBQ).

Steaks and roasts are generally regarded as lower-risk products than hamburger because the meat is intact and E. coli, salmonella and friends can be killed by searing the outside, while the inside can be rare and microbiologically safe.

But what if needles pushed the E. coli on the outside of the steak to the inside? That’s what happens during blade or needle tenderization and the practice appears to be common although no one is saying how common.

It was Christmas 2009, when an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that sickened at least 21 people was linked to blade tenderized or non-intact beef served at Appleby’s. There have been other outbreaks.

So what are consumers to do? Don’t expect labeling at retail any time soon. But two new research papers offer some insights.

Luchansky et al. build on previous work and conclude that E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC were spread throughout the interior of blade-tenderized steaks, and that when cooked on a gas grill, significant numbers of both pathogens were eliminated, but some survivors were recovered due, presumably, to uneven heating of the blade-tenderized steaks.

So what’s the policy and consumer recommendation for cooking steaks?

Wiegand et al. report that calculations based on D- and z-values obtained from isothermal ground beef studies increasingly overestimated destruction of E. coli O157:H7 in commercially cooked whole-muscle beef as process severity increased.

So what’s the policy and consumer recommendation for cooking roasts?

The abstracts are below.

Fate of Shiga toxin-producing O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 Escherichia coli cells within blade-tenderized beef steaks after cooking on a commercial open-flame gas grill
Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 1, January 2012 , pp. 62-70(9)
Luchansky, John B.; Porto-Fett, Anna C.S.; Shoyer, Bradley A.; Call, Jeffrey E.; Schlosser, Wayne; Shaw, William; Bauer, Nathan; Latimer, Andheejeong

We compared the fate of cells of both Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (ECOH) and Shiga toxin-producing non-O157:H7 E. coli (STEC) in blade-tenderized steaks after tenderization and cooking on a gas grill. In phase I, beef subprimal cuts were inoculated on the lean side with about 5.5 log CFU/g of a five-strain mixture of ECOH or STEC and then passed once through a mechanical blade tenderizer with the lean side facing up. In each of two trials, 10 core samples were removed from each of two tenderized subprimals and cut into six consecutive segments starting from the inoculated side. Ten total cores also were obtained from two nontenderized (control) subprimals, but only segment 1 (the topmost segment) was sampled. The levels of ECOH and STEC recovered from segment 1 were about 6.0 and 5.3 log CFU/g, respectively, for the control subprimals and about 5.7 and 5.0 log CFU/g, respectively, for the tenderized subprimals. However, both ECOH and STEC behaved similarly in terms of translocation, and cells of both pathogen cocktails were recovered from all six segments of the cores obtained from tenderized subprimals, albeit at lower levels in segments 2 to 6 than those found in segment 1. In phase II, steaks (2.54 and 3.81 cm thick) cut from tenderized subprimals were subsequently cooked (three steaks per treatment) on a commercial open-flame gas grill to internal temperatures of 48.9, 54.4, 60.0, 65.6, and 71.1°C. Regardless of temperature or thickness, we observed 2.0- to 4.1-log and 1.5- to 4.5-log reductions in ECOH and STEC levels, respectively. Both ECOH and STEC behaved similarly in response to heat, in that cooking eliminated significant numbers of both pathogen types; however, some survivors were recovered due, presumably, to uneven heating of the blade-tenderized steaks.

Evaluating lethality of beef roast cooking treatments against Escherichia coli O157:H7
Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 1, January 2012 , pp. 48-61(14)
Wiegand, Kimberly M.; Ingham, Steven C.; Ingham, Barbara H.
Added salt, seasonings, and phosphates, along with slow- and/or low-temperature cooking impart desirable characteristics to whole-muscle beef, but might enhance Escherichia coli O157:H7 survival. We investigated the effects of added salt, seasoning, and phosphates on E. coli O157:H7 thermotolerance in ground beef, compared E. coli O157:H7 thermotolerance in seasoned roasts and ground beef, and evaluated ground beef-derived D- and z-values for predicting destruction of E. coli O157:H7 in whole-muscle beef cooking. Inoculated seasoned and unseasoned ground beef was heated at constant temperatures of 54.4, 60.0, and 65.5°C to determine D- and z-values, and E. coli O157:H7 survival was monitored in seasoned ground beef during simulated slow cooking. Inoculated, seasoned whole-muscle beef roasts were slow cooked in a commercial smokehouse, and experimentally determined lethality was compared with predicted process lethality. Adding 5% seasoning significantly decreased E. coli O157:H7 thermotolerance in ground beef at 54.4°C, but not at 60 or 65.5°C. Under nonisothermal conditions, E. coliO157:H7 thermotolerance was greater in seasoned whole-muscle beef than in seasoned ground beef. Meeting U.S. Government (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 1999, Appendix A) whole-muscle beef cooking guidance, which targets Salmonella destruction, would not ensure ≥6.5-log CFU/g reduction of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef systems, but generally ensured $ 6.5-log CFU/g reduction of this pathogen in seasoned whole-muscle beef. Calculations based on D- and z-values obtained from isothermal ground beef studies increasingly overestimated destruction of E. coli O157:H7 in commercially cooked whole-muscle beef as process severity increased, with a regression line equation of observed reduction = 0.299 (predicted reduction) + 1.4373.