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.