Hamburger safety videos: Who’s the bullshitter, UK or US?

How can two different countries come up with two different recommendations – yet equally cheesy videos – on the basics of hamburger food safety?

Value assumptions in risk assessments.

My guess would be the UK Food Standards Agency thinks consumers can’t handle thermometers so they provide misguided and meaningless risk messages. And when talking about steaks, they don’t talk about needle- or blade tenderized steaks, in which the outside is pushed into the inside.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gets the science right, but fails to expand beyond the simplistic cook-chill-clean-separate mantra and doesn’t mention sourcing food from safe sources, like the World Health Organization does.

I provide information. You decide.


I don’t see color, it doesn’t matter: UK hamburger edition

Don’t burger up your bank holiday.

Get it? Don’t bugger it up? Burger it up?

barfblog.Stick It InThose bureaucrats at UK’s Food Standards Agency are really yukking it up, focused on stupid jokes rather than evidence-based communications.

FSA has long been in its own undersirable class when talking about food safety risks, and class is so very important to the Brits.

FSA is great is talking at people rather than talking with people (a huge difference, like educating versus providing information).

FSA’s idea of risk communication is to commission a meaningless survey – people lie, especially about food and drink – which found that despite 71% of people stating that they are concerned about food poisoning, over a third (36%) of Brits would eat a burger that isn’t fully cooked through. More than one in 10 said that they actually prefer burgers cooked this way.  When cooking them at home 81% of those admit to undercooking them. So we at the FSA are encouraging all those who are getting their barbecues out this weekend to ensure they cook their burgers all the way through – until steaming hot throughout, there’s no pink meat in the middle and the juices run clear.

Those scientifically meanginless terms – steaming hot, no pink – have featured prominently in FSA foodsafetytalk for years, with steaming hot replacing piping hot.

Lead FSA policy thingy said something that is not worth repeating because it ignores the risks associated with needle-tenderized steaks.

And we’ve been over this so many times before.

The BBC repeated the advice verbatium in its latest version of PR blowjobs rather than something resembling journalism.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

And now this.


Shame on the Brits: Why bad food safety advice for safe chicken?

Maybe there’s no tip-sensitive digital thermometers in the UK, maybe they’re not trying, maybe they just think they’re colonially better.

barfblog.Stick It InThe taxpayer-funded UK Food Standards Agency is going to have another go at Food Safety Week, focusing on Campylobacter in chicken.

Up to a third of the UK population could contract food poisoning from campylobacter during their lifetime, according to new figures released by FSA.

The figures are based on the current infection rates of more than a quarter of a million people per year. Campylobacter is most frequently found on raw poultry and is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.  The FSA has released the figures to mark the start of 2015’s Food Safety Week and the launch of the ‘Chicken Challenge’ – its call to the whole food chain, from industry to consumers, to do their bit to halve the number of campylobacter food poisoning cases by the end of 2015.

Nina Purcell, director at the FSA, said in order to reduce Campylobacter illnesses, “check chicken is cooked properly until it’s steaming hot throughout with no pink meat and the juices run clear.”

Worse, the UK Institute of Food Research swallowed this line whole, and said, “check chicken is cooked properly until it’s steaming hot throughout with no pink meat and the juices run clear.”

This is chickenshit, and scientifically invalid.

The U.S., Canada, and now Australia, recommend the only way to ensure poultry and other foods are safely cooked, is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. Color is a lousy indicator.

The Brit bureaurtards, and especially the supposedly science-based Institute of Food Research, should be ashamed.

Reheat cooked burgers to ‘steaming hot?’ USDA disappoints

While promoting today that the “U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to modernize its food safety program,” a press release from last week contradicts its own agency advice.

AskKaren_Web2Jane Doherty, international coordinator, at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, writes that each year, America imports over 3.5 billion pounds of meat, poultry, and egg products. As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, it is important to continually strengthen our regulatory programs to ensure that the food on your family’s table is safe. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency that verifies these products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, whether they are produced in the U.S. or abroad. …

“Our mission is to protect the public health, and our system boasts stringent science based requirements that are respected around the world.”

But when announcing the recall of Kenosha Beef International cooked patties due to possible Listeria contamination last week, the FSIS announcement advised, “reheat ready-to-eat product until steaming hot.”

Is this the American version of piping hot?

FSIS also said consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at

So I did.

What temperature should you reheat leftover hamburgers?

When reheating fully cooked patties or casseroles containing ground beef, be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 °F (73.8 °c) or it is hot and steaming.

How do I reheat leftovers safely?

Even though foods may have been safely cooked, bacteria from the air or people’s hands can contaminate the leftovers. Always reheat leftovers thoroughly in a conventional or microwave oven or on the stove top. Always test reheated leftovers in several places with a meat thermometer to be sure they reach 165 °F (73.8°C) throughout. When reheating foods in the microwave, cover and rotate or stir foods once or twice during cooking.

And, as usual, USDA sticks with the clean-cook-chill-separate dogma while ignoring the fifth factor that has been promoted by the World Health Organization since 1999: chose wisely, or source food from safe sources.

(The video, however, is cheesy.)

It’s steaming hot, like road apples? How is that scientific? Campy campaign fails

While the Brits are busy congratulating themselves on their Campylobacter reduction campaign, the following video from the UK Food Standards Agency crossed my computer.

How can any agency talk science-based, while ignoring the science in public advice about cooking chicken.

And these elaborate videos ain’t cheap.

Way to be duped, British taxpayers.

“The only way to kill germs is to cook chicken thoroughly, making sure it’s steaming hot in the middle.

I’ll go with the Hip.

Warning: Cooking instructions from UK Food Standards Agency may lead to excessive barfing and explosive diarrhea

Many countries have a Food Safety Week or Month, which seem primarily designed to circulate bad information and blame consumers for getting sick.

The U.K. celebrates Food Safety Week 2010 from June 7-13 (I can hear the monster truck radio promo dude doing the voice-over for the commercials – ‘experience the thunder, Food Safety Week 2010 will rock your world’).

This year, the focus is on Campylobacter, which, at 55,000 reported cases annually, causes the greatest number of foodborne illnesses in the UK. The key messages for this year’s campaign are to cook thoroughly and avoid cross-contamination.

The communication types at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have come up with a draft press release that local councils could use to promote the good deeds of Food Safety Week (or in bureau-speak, FSW!) entitled, Take simple steps to avoid food poisoning.

If avoiding food poisoning was so simple, why do so many people get sick?

“People should not worry unduly about food poisoning; there are some simple common sense steps people can take to avoid getting ill. Just storing, handling and cooking food properly will minimise the risk.”

Can I duly worry about barfing from the food I eat?

Bob Martin, a food safety expert at the FSA, said,

“Proper cooking will kill food bugs. It’s especially important to make sure poultry, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. If there’s any pink meat or the juices have any pink or red in them, germs could be lurking! Check your food is steaming hot all the way through before serving.”

These are not recommendations for proper cooking; these are recommendations for food safety failures. Is steaming hot an improvement on piping hot? How do I check if food is steaming hot, won’t I burn something? Do hamburgers and chicken legs steam when they are cooked? Is color really the best way to tell if food is cooked? Why do bureaucrats have to excessively use exclamation marks?

As part of the interactive learning section, the British feds ask,

Q4. How can you tell that chicken is properly cooked? (Tick all that apply.)

1. It’s hot on the outside
2. It’s not pink
3. The juices run clear
4. After the time stated on the instructions
5. It’s golden brown
6. It’s steaming hot all the way through

A. It’s not pink, the juices run clear and it’s steaming hot all the way through, 2,3, and 6.

To ensure chicken is properly cooked, you should check the thickest bit of meat, either large pieces in something like a curry, or with a roast bird at the thickest part between the breast and leg. The meat should be steaming hot, with no pinkness and any juices should run clear.

Check it with your eyes? Your finger? Your tongue? How about, check it with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer because color is a lousy indicator for food safety.

“During 2010, the Agency will be developing a new campylobacter risk management programme. Although this new programme is expected to involve extensive work with industry to reduce the prevalence of campylobacter in UK-produced retail chicken, the promotion of messages about good food hygiene to consumers through initiatives such as Food Safety Week will remain an important factor in reducing human campylobacter infections.”

There is no evidence such information programs do anything but lower the credibility of a supposedly science- or evidence-based agency.

On this Memorial Day, which can be traced back to Decoration Day at the end of the American civil war, stick with some of the cooking advice from the Americans and Canadians – use a tip-sensitive thermometer and stick it in.