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August 2015

Do you serve rare burgers?


Please note this infomation is for food business owners. The following information is not applicable to home cooking. 

The Food Standards Agency has today published details of a proposed new approach to the preparation and service of rare (pink) burgers in food outlets. 

The increased popularity of burgers served rare has prompted the FSA to look at how businesses can meet this consumer demand while ensuring public health remains protected.



The FSA’s long-standing advice has been that burgers should be cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot throughout, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat left inside. This is because bugs can be present in the burger and can only be killed by cooking all the way through.


However, the FSA recognises the steadily increasing trend in the preparation and sale of rare gourmet burgers in catering outlets. When the FSA Board meets in September, they will consider the range of controls businesses should take into account when they are considering serving rare burgers.


These controls should be in place throughout the supply chain and businesses will need to demonstrate to their local authority officer that the food safety procedures which they implement are appropriate. Examples of some of these controls are:


Sourcing the meat only from establishments which have specific controls in place to minimise the risk of contamination of meat intended to be eaten raw or lightly cooked.

  • Ensuring that the supplier carries out appropriate testing of raw meat to check that their procedures for minimising contamination are working.
  • Strict temperature control to prevent growth of any bugs and appropriate preparation and cooking procedures.
  • Providing consumer advice on menus regarding the additional risk from burgers which aren’t thoroughly cooked.

The proposals are contained in a board paper published today and subject to approval by the FSA Board at its next meeting on 9 September. Following the Board decision, the FSA will work closely with local authorities and the food industry to assess whether there is a need for further guidance in this area.


Professor Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Food Standards Agency, said: 'We are clear that the best way of ensuring burgers are safe to eat is to cook them thoroughly but we acknowledge that some people choose to eat them rare. The proposals we will be discussing with the FSA board in September strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining consumer choice.'


In places where people eat out, the food industry is able to implement strict controls for burgers which are intended to be eaten rare, and this helps to minimise the risk of people getting ill. However, the advice for cooking burgers at home remains to cook thoroughly all the way through until no pink meat remains.

Read more by clicking here

Source The Food Standards Agency 

Ceviche - recipe of the month

Ceviche is a lovely cooling summer dish to have. Ceviche is a popular fish and seafood dish in the coastal regions of Latin America. Ceviche is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavour, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, appearing to be cooked. White fish changes from translucent to taking on a white appearance.


It is a very simple dish to prepare and no cooking involved. However there is quite a lot of chopping to do. Ceviche is a great way to use up remaining vegetables and salad items in your fridge and contribute towards your Five a day. Ceviche is a good source of protein, phosphorus, Vit C, B12 and monounsaturated fats. 

It goes without saying that any raw fish used should be the freshest you can buy. The fish should have either been previously frozen, or you need to freeze for 12hrs and then defrost to destroy any parasites that might be in the fish.I prefer to use cod in this recipe sliced in thin strips.. 

All vegetables and fresh herbs should be washed under cold running water to remove any dirt. Keep skins on where possible as this will help contribute to your fibre intake. Always make sure you wash your hands and use clean chopping boards and knife when preparing the raw ingredients. 

The chilly hit is up to you. I use one small red chili, deseed with the placenta removed (white parts). I add a few seeds at the end. Be careful when handling chillies and avoid touching your eyes and face. Wash your hands after preparing them. 

When squeezing the limes and lemons I do this by hand. I like pieces of lemon and lime pulp in the dish.

Use a non-reactive container to make this dish, such as glass, Pyrex or plastic bowls. 

High risk groups such as pregnant women and the elderly should not eat this dish.



500g firm white fresh fish fillets, such as haddock or cod, thinly sliced or cubed

Juice and pulp of 6 limes (250ml/9fl oz), plus extra wedges to serve

Juice and pulp of 2 lemons

1-2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red chili, finely chopped (seeds optional)

3-4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped into 2cm pieces

1-2 avocados peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces (few slices to decorate dish with)

1 large cucumber chopped into 2cm pieces

1 large bunch coriander, thoroughly washed roughly chopped

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of cumin powder

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

Salt to season

Good pinch caster sugar added at the end. 


Mix everything in one bowl. Give it a good stir. Cover and leave to marinate in a refrigerator for 1-2 hours.  

Toast some wholemeal pitta bread. Cut into quarters and serve with the ceviche.

Happy scooping!

DEFRA & PHE Zoonoses Report for UK 2013


Executive Summary

This year’s UK Zoonoses report continues to include feature articles which highlight human and animal incidents and issues of public health significance which occurred during 2013, as well as a summary of reported cases of zoonotic infection in humans and animals.

As usual, the report highlights significant trends in a number of infections, and whilst these will continue to be monitored, they also emphasise the need for continued surveillance and collaboration between veterinary and human health practitioners.


Interpreting trends in veterinary data in particular needs to be done with care, as the number of submissions to the various Government laboratories involved in supplying data for this report may vary from year to year for a number of reasons. These may include weather conditions, concerns about disease or financial factors, and these are likely to affect both the various livestock sectors and types of submissions differently.



Campylobacter continues to be the most commonly reported human gastrointestinal pathogen. After a general upward trend over the past 10 years, the number of laboratory reports of campylobacter fell across the UK during 2013. There were 66,575 reports in the UK, a decrease of 8% from 2012. Although reports fell by 9% and 3% in England and ales and in Scotland respectively, they increased by 12% in Northern Ireland.

There were 19 foodborne outbreaks of campylobacteriosis reported in 2013, which is a significant increase on the eight reported in 2012. Fourteen outbreaks were associated with the consumption of poultry, of which nine were chicken liver parfait. The Food Standards Agency is leading the campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle campylobacter, from farm to fork. A survey of broilers at slaughter in 2013 showed a high level of contamination. This was part of a structured official monitoring programme based on Decision 2007/516/EC, and found that of 473 neck skin samples tested, 78 were positive for C. coli and 298 positive for C. jejuni and of 125 caecal contents samples which were tested, 34 were positive for C.coli and 66 for C. jejuni.

There was a significant increase in the incidence of campylobacter-associated abortion in sheep in GB, with almost twice as many cases diagnosed in 2013 compared to 2012, despite comparable submission levels. Incidences of campylobacter fetopathy recorded by AHPA appear to follow a cyclical pattern, with significant rises in infection rates observed every three years. This is thought to be due to immunity waxing and waning in the national flock. Campylobacter-associated abortion in animals is not believed to be associated with foodborne infection of people, but can result in occupationally-acquired illness.


Hepatitis E

In England and Wales the majority of hepatitis E virus (HEV) cases in people are nontravel related and present as sporadic disease. Since 2010, the numbers of confirmed hepatitis E cases have increased year on year with 691 cases reported in 2013, a 19% increase since 2012. The numbers of travel-related cases have remained relatively stable over the years. Therefore the substantial increase observed since 2010 is due to an increase in indigenously acquired cases, with 69% of cases assessed as non-travel associated or indigenous. The substantial increase in indigenous cases in England and Wales appears to be due to the emergence of a different HEV phylotype (genotype 3, clade 2), not commonly observed in England and Wales prior to 2010. Thus there are currently two concurrent outbreaks contributing to the burden of disease nationally: clade 1 virus, which has been the cause of hepatitis E cases since 2003; and clade 2 virus which emerged more recently and accounts for around two thirds of cases in 2013.

The multi-partner collaborative pig abattoir survey, which was undertaken to better understand the possible role of infection in pigs on human disease incidence, showed that 93% of 640 pigs tested were seropositive at slaughter, with 6% actively infected with HEV, as shown by the presence of detectable plasma HEV RNA. The viral load was sufficient to identify the virus from a small number of pigs as genotype 3, clade 1. This is not the clade of virus associated with the substantial increase in indigenous cases in people since 2010 and so the cause is unlikely to be meat from UK pigs.


Vero cytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC)

In 2013, there were 1,017 laboratory confirmed cases of VTEC O157 reported in humans in the UK (765 in England, 28 in Wales, 167 in Scotland and 57 in Northern Ireland), an 16% decrease on the 1,217 cases reported in 2012. The burden of disease due to serogroups other than O157 (non-O157 VTEC) in the UK is underestimated because the diagnosis of non-O157 VTEC is mainly dependent on the use of PCR based methods to detect the genes coding for the production of vero cytotoxins. Such diagnostic tests are not routinely used by most front line laboratories. However, during 2013, three hospital laboratories in England introduced a commercial PCR assay for the detection of gastrointestinal pathogens which led to a significant increase in the detection of non-O157 VTEC. In 2013 there were 151 laboratory confirmed cases of non O157 VTEC confirmed in the UK, as compared to 60 in 2012. Eight outbreaks of VTEC in England affecting a total of 54 cases were reported in 2013, and included two foodborne outbreaks, both linked to the consumption of watercress with 6 affected cases in England, Wales and Scotland. All eight outbreaks involved VTEC O157, down from 17 outbreaks of VTEC in England and Wales affecting a total of 103 cases in 2012. 

The full report published in Feb 2015 can be viewed by clicking here