We understand the rationale that declares a ‘pink burger’ to be unsafe – that any bacteria present do not remain on the outside of a piece of meat and so may not be killed by cooking, as would happen with a steak.
We also understand that local authorities have a role to play in upholding food hygiene standards on their patch.
But we can’t help but feel it is unfair that a burger bar that has had not one single case of illness attributed to its wares could be put out of business on the grounds that it is unsafe. Because that is patently not true.
The firm in question, 6 oz Burgers in Osborne Road, Southsea, has been trading since August last year. Like many other restaurants, it serves rare burgers.
But because it could not prove in great detail the supply chain of its meat, it faced court action from Portsmouth City Council’s environmental health inspectors, backed by the Food Standards Agency.
Now, having spent £100,000 on the case, and still facing the prospect of having to pick up the council’s £25,000 legal bill too, 6 oz Burgers faces a more uncertain future.
There aren’t any villains here. The council was following advice from the experts, and was only ‘fulfilling its assigned duty’, as the judge put it.
The restaurant was meeting a demand from the public who – crucially – were well aware of what they were eating. It wasn’t the case that horse was being passed off as beef. It wasn’t the case that additives were used as flavouring to disguise cheaper ingredients. The food was as advertised.
We are firmly behind the council in its recent drive to improve takeaways – and some of those prosecuted in the city in the last couple of years have been truly disgusting – but this is a different type of case. It’s a shame for all concerned that both sides were unable to work out a way forward without court action seeing a successful restaurant ‘absolutely bled dry’ by legal costs doesn’t seem to be much in the public interest. It leaves a bad taste.