Their latest wheeze is to ban the cooking and serving or rare hamburgers by restaurants and bars. No, I do not mean these are burgers that are hard to find or come from some rare kind of meat. It is the way they are cooked and the way many people, including me, like them. I also like steak tartare, which is probably next on the list of the Westminster EHOs, followed by rare or medium-rare steaks.
In today's Evening Standard the Council and its minions are defending themselves by saying that they have not banned rare hamburgers, merely made it clear that this was not something they approved of. Restaurant owners and managers know what that means: very soon the inspectors will be coming round and demanding that such things be taken off the menu. So, naturally and somewhat pusillanimously, a number of them have started taking those bloody (in the Shakespearian sense) burgers off the menu.
Inevitably, they are quoting a distinguished microbiologist, Professor Hugh Pennington:
James Armitage, Westminster city council’s food health and safety manager, said: “This is not about banning under-cooked burgers. This is about making sure customers are eating meat that is not a threat to their health. It is possible to produce burgers that can be eaten under-cooked but strict controls are necessary for this.
“We have enlisted the UK’s top expert on E.coli, Professor Hugh Pennington, to get this matter resolved and he has outlined that rare minced meat which is not correctly cooked and prepared can kill — we have to take that seriously and we believe the restaurant involved falls well below the standards required.”I am not sure Professor Pennington likes the idea of being "enlisted" by some pipsqueak food health and safety manager but what he says is absolutely true: anything that is nor correctly cooked and prepared can kill. Come to think of it, things that are correctly prepared and cooked can kill. That is hardly the point. What is notable in this skirmish is that there is no reference of a single case of anybody becoming ill, let alone dying as a result of eating under-cooked hamburgers.
This is, in other words, our old friend, the precautionary principle, which says that all sorts of rules and regulations have to be imposed on businesses because it is within the bounds of possibility that something they do might harm somebody some time.
One chain of wine bars is fighting back.
It comes after council inspectors ordered Davy’s wine bar in St James’s to stop serving its £13.95 burgers underdone. The wine bar has challenged the authority’s decision at Westminster magistrates court in what is being seen as a test case when it resumes.Looks like we shall have to support Davy's in their fight against the EHOs.