51% of Irish adults have reported eating undercooked burgers in restaurants, according to an online survey conducted by Safefood.
Respondents listed a range of factors as to why they eat undercooked burgers, ranging from taste and confidence in the food preparation.
However, 65% of people said they would reconsider this choice if they knew there was a risk of food poisoning.
Safefood are campaigning to educate the public on the importance of only eating burgers that are cooked through to prevent contracting serious and sometimes life-threatening food poisoning.
Safefood is urging people to always ask for burgers to be well cooked.
Dr. Gary Kearney of Safefood said that the mince used in hamburgers is a higher risk as the food poisoning bacteria that live on the surface of the beef (steak) is then mixed through the middle of the burger when the beef is minced – so in effect, the outside is now on the inside.
“The only way to ensure that any bacteria in the middle of the burger is killed off is to ensure that the burger is cooked well done.”
Safefood claim that there is a growing trend of serving burgers cooked to preference or less than well done in restaurants across Ireland and it has raised concerns for regulatory authorities including the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the HSE’s Environmental Health Service.
Earlier this year, the FSAI issued new advice to caterers to only serve burgers that are safe to eat by cooking the meat all the way through.
“While most people who get sick from food poisoning will recover without any lasting effects, some E. coli in particular carry the risk of more serious long-term effects.”
Dr. Martin Cormican, a professor of bacteriology at NUIG in Galway, said that some types of E. coli that are harmless to cows can be very dangerous to people.
The biggest worry is a type of E. coli called VTEC which causes severe diarrhoea.
“About 1 in 10 people who get VTEC diarrhoea will develop severe complications affecting the blood and kidneys. The biggest risk is to children and older people,” he said.
“If there is VTEC in the middle of your burger, only proper cooking will kill it. If your burger is not well cooked in the middle you are taking a big risk,” he added.