Thursday, 13 December 2012

Pennington's E.coli burger scare

E.coli is pretty well everywhere and we generally get along with it quite happily. The odd strain, notably E.coli O157, can be fatal. In the UK 17 people died as a direct result in Lanarkshire in 1996, and a further one, a child of 5, in a separate outbreak in South Wales in 2005. So, eighteen deaths in sixteen years. That's about equivalent to the number of fatalities caused by cheese injury. 

Westminster Council's Environmental Health Department is responsible for food safety in one of the world's key cities. Millions of people eat meals in London, a city with an international cuisine serving everything from Nigerian bushmeat (monkey) to Kangaroo steaks. As a result of precisely NO E.coli infections whatsoever from rare beefburgers - let me repeat, after not one single reported case of food poisoning from rare beefburgers - Westminster is muscling all burger outlets in the borough to take rare and even medium burgers off their menus. Never mind informed customer choice. Nanny has decided we're simply not clever enough to make our own decisions. 

Behind the scare is Hugh Pennington, an impartial and now retired 'expert' who earns money from his impartial and expert books such as When Food Kills. He was one of the forces behind the creation of the Food Standards Agency, a government quango of remarkable risk aversity. With the connivance of officers in Westminster Council, Pennington has contrived a health scare with little foundation. He would be better off fighting for higher safety standards in the bulk cheese industry, preventing all those feet crushed by blocks of cheddar or shoulders wrenched reaching for truckles of Stilton. Why he's launched the campaign now in the middle of Winter when microbacterial activity is at a low is anyone's guess; perhaps he's building up the risks of undercooked Turkey. 

Sod 'em all anyway. I'll continue to take my duck and my lamb pink, my beef bloody and my cheese unpasteurised. I'll wash it down with uncounted units of alcohol and wrap it up with a post-prandial fag.   

16 comments:

BugsMan said...

This qualified medical microbiologist will happily join you at your next BBQ for what sounds like an epicurial delight.

What Pennington ignores is that the increasing lack of immunological challenges, due to over-zealous nanny statism, is a strong contender for the rise in hyper-allegenic disorders such as asthma.

Dr Evil said...

It is personal taste of course but I prefer my meat well done. I'm sure you know why he is crusading. Comminted meat spreads any surface contamination and can also result in anaerobic environments near the centre. Not only E coli but a few other unpleasant microbes like that. the ambient temperature in a restaurant kitchen will be much above ambient in the winter. these kitchens are notorious for cross contaminating cooked with uncooked meats too. A well done burger is very sensible. When you get onto steak tartare et al then it must be the best steal and minced shortly before consumption, ideally. BTW, did you know that well cooked meat is more easily digested than rawer forms?

Dr Evil said...

Comminuted. bloody typos!

Demetrius said...

Pennington surfaces again? Well, well, in 2009 on 6 April, 28 April and 17 July I took pots at this chap. If he is now into food he can certainly cook books.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Sounds like a dream night out (or in), Raedwald. :)

By the way, I can highly recommend kangaroo steak.

G. Tingey said...

Just-done calves' liver!

Anonymous said...

Cleanliness is far more important, HMG's time would be better spent rather than worrying about half cooked beef - that's up to the customer surely?

Ian Hills said...

I don't suppose Pennington ever kicked up a stink about the risk of CJD from human bushmeat....

John M said...

Wasn't Pennington the scientist who created the scare story about Variant CJD a number of years ago and got millions of pounds of funding to end his career on?

Sounds like a good deal. Create scare, collect cash. The security services do it as well you know...

Blue Eyes said...

The best burgers are in Shoreditch anyway.

Cascadian said...

He would be better employed regulating the spread of Hepatitis from kitchen staff to patrons

Budgie said...

My impression is that it is not undercooked meat but lack of hygiene. Not only do most people not wash their hands properly after using the wc, including restaurant staff, some don't appear to wash at all. It seems to be learnt at school.

Many schools I have been to have a scarcity of toilet paper, no soap, no towels, no driers. How can parents successfully drum hygiene into their kids when the state schools appear to actively hinder good habits by failing to provide the means to wash properly?

G. Tingey said...

Huge backlash against this in yesterday's papers.

It is to be hoped that Westminster back down, though their previous record on this sort of thing is poor.
They are more likely to bully, bluster, lie, wriggle & do ANYTHING, rather than back down.

Edward Spalton said...

During the BSE (mad cow disease) scare, the sale of beef on the bone was banned as part of the "precautionary principle". My wife persuaded the butcher to supply us with standing ribs but he invoiced the bones separately "for the dog".

They were cooked to perfection (pink in the middle) and we held an illicit beef party for pro independence campaigners. "The Roast Beef of Old England"!

The official panic looked to be permanent then . I thought we might institute a custom similar to that which pertained in Greece during Muslim Turkish rule. Children of crypto Christians (people who conformed outwardly to Islam) were taken by their godfathers and secretly initiated into eating pork!

Anonymous said...

Budgie said @ 13 December 2012 23:15

Anything state is bad.
Hmm:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2165967/posts

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