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Diners will not swallow ban on rare burgers

THE owner of a gourmet burger restaurant in Dublin says he fears he will lose customers because of a health diktat banning medium-rare beef patties.

Jo'Burger, the award-winning Rathmines restaurant, says it has no option but to comply with the directive issued by an Environmental Health Officer. Owner Joe Macken told the Sunday Independent the order amounts to "a restriction of choice".

Since opening in 2007, customers have been offered three choices about how they want their burger cooked -- well-done, medium and medium rare. "One in four customers like their burgers very juicy and medium rare. We fear we could lose customers over this," Joe Macken says.

The restaurant menu offers 20 different styles of burger in a choice of beef, lamb, chicken fish and vegetarian.

However, as a result of an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) written warning, the restaurant will remove the medium-rare option.

Mr Macken insisted each beef consignment they received was carefully selected by a craft butcher, delivered daily and the consignment was temperature-controlled at all times. "We always advised customers that the safest option is have your meat well cooked. This advice was provided in consultation with the EHO and is above and beyond what many other restaurants that serve meats cooked according to customer preference," he said.

"We regret that the EHO has sought to alter their position and we feel that this change of position represents over-regulation," he added.

Jo'burger received a written warning that continuing to serve burgers cooked medium-rare could represent a "risk to public health".

Mr Macken confirmed he had been warned about the issue of undercooked burgers when the restaurant opened and have always included a disclaimer at the bottom of the menu, advising patrons: "We will serve your burger as you request it, rare to well-done. Rare and medium-rare burgers are undercooked. Note eating of undercooked or raw meat may lead to food- borne illness."

The main risk of food-borne illness in relation to minced meat in all forms is the E.coli bacterium.

The bacterium is usually found on the outside of meat, which means steaks can be cooked rare because any bugs are killed off during the searing process.

Sunday Independent