EFSA: Caution essential when cooking burgers and mince

By Liz Newmark

- Last updated on GMT

Key EFSA meeting heard advice on how to cook burgers and mine
Key EFSA meeting heard advice on how to cook burgers and mine

Related tags Wild boar European union Beef

A precautionary approach should be used when cooking beef burgers or minced beef, European Union (EU) experts have suggested at a meeting hosted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

According to minutes of a closed session just released by EFSA, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI’s) chief specialist for biological safety Dr Lisa O’Connor stressed advice in her country was that caterers and consumers must cook minced meat and high-risk minced meat products to a core temperature of 75°C or at 70°C for two minutes.

The FSAI wanted to find out members’ views on the most appropriate “z value​” (number of degrees Celsius rise in cooking temperature needed to reduce the bacteria by a factor of 10) when cooking meat at 70°C for two minutes.

O’Connor was warned that target organisms in beef burgers were more likely VTEC/STEC [the verotoxigenic and shigatoxigenic strains of Escherichia – E.coli, which can cause illness like diarrhoea in humans] and salmonella. Experts also suggested targeting and varying cooking temperature advice, depending on what pathogens might be present in particular meats.

UK to fund E.Coli project

The meeting also heard that the UK’s department of health is funding a three-year project (November 2013 to March 2016) with Public Health England on E.coli and the threat posed to animal and public health in the UK.

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is quantifying extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E.coli, which has been demonstrating antimicrobial resistance, in raw meat and fresh produce purchased at retail. The report is expected by the end of the year.

In a third debate, Austria’s guest speaker Walter Glawischnig, of the country’s Institute for Veterinary Disease Control, presented results from a study on zoonotic pathogens in wild boar. These showed that many of the salmonella strains found in this game were S. Cholerasuis, which are not present in Austria’s domestic swine population.

Foxes are the definite host for Alaria and Trichinella and wild boar may get infected by scavenging on dead foxes,​” the minutes made clear. “The habitat of both foxes and wild boar change and overlap more than before, which could result in wild boar infections with these parasites.​”

EFSA spokesperson Francesca Avanzini told GlobalMeatNews​, meanwhile, that while national experts can suggest certain measures to take and “share ongoing or completed specific actions in the EU member states, the network does not decide or recommend any specific actions​”.

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