Celebrity chef ‘undermining’ food safety guidelines

The Heston Blumenthal by Salter Instant Read Digital Thermometer comes with a magnetised temperature chart that you can stick on your fridge. The chart includes recommended cooking temperatures from the US Department of Agriculture – similar to FSA ones – and Blumenthal’s temperatures, which are much lower.

The chef recommends cooking fish and rare beef veal at 50°C and medium rare veal and medium rare minced beef burgers at 55°C. Yet bacteria only start to die above 60°C.

Susan Ireland, an EHO based in St Albans was alerted to the issue by a commercial chef in her area, who was also concerned. She said, “We are big fans of Food Safety Week and like other local authorities we have run market stalls with posters and pamphlets from the FSA and talked to passers-by about the importance of cooking to a high temperature – and then you buy a Heston probe. We spend all this time and money educating the public but the advice we are giving is different to what Heston is recommending and you can end up with a very confused picture - you wouldn’t want people doing their burgers at 55°C on the BBQ.”

Susan Ireland was concerned that more information was not given with the product as it was being sold to the domestic market and not just professional chefs. She said, “A couple of years ago the advice came out that you could cook burgers at lower temperature but people only hear the strapline. Folks don’t always read the whole story [that you must buy beef from suppliers with sufficient hygiene controls].”

Standard FSA advice is to cook food until it has reached 70°C for two minutes, to kill any bacteria present. It is possible to cook food at lower temperatures but it takes longer and this is not mentioned on the chart or accompanying leaflet.

A spokesperson for Blumenthal and Salter added, “Each probe comes with a leaflet that clearly states the USDA guidelines as well as Heston’s suggested temperatures. The customer can then decide what temperature to use when cooking and the probe will allow them to get to it precisely.”

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