Requirement for telling consumers about the risk of eating less than thoroughly cooked burgers
A consumer message is required to alert consumers, particularly vulnerable groups, to the increased risk of eating less than thoroughly cooked (LTTC) beef burgers.
Although there is no specific legal requirement for the labelling of LTTC burgers, legislation says that, when considering whether food is unsafe (or safe), food businesses should have regard to information provided to consumers, and in particular to those consumers in vulnerable groups.
A relevant extract from the legislation can be found below:
'In determining whether any food is unsafe, regard shall be had:
… to the information provided to the consumer, including information on the label, or other information generally available to the consumer concerning the avoidance of specific adverse health effects from a particular food or category of foods
… In determining whether any food is injurious to health, regard shall be had:
… to the particular health sensitivities of a specific category of consumers where the food is intended for that category of consumers’
When a food carries a level of risk that is deemed as elevated but still within acceptable levels of risk, and that risk is not communicated to consumers to allow them to consider that before they order it, this could be considered as not fully compliant with general food law.
The FSA conducted consumer focussed research on the effectiveness of consumer advisory messages at the point of ordering, which was published in July 2016. The findings of the research were taken into consideration, along with comments from LAs and industry stakeholders, to develop the wording for consumer messages. Messages should be clear, meaningful and easily understood. The best practice box below contains the recommended consumer message to be used when LTTC beef burgers have been produced using the source control method.
The FSA recommends using the following consumer message:
'Burgers cooked rare and medium rare carry a higher risk of food poisoning. Unlike a steak, a burger needs to be cooked through to reduce that risk.
The Food Standards Agency recommends that children, pregnant women and anyone with a weaker immune system have their burgers well done. Please ask us for more information.'
It is best practice that the consumer advisory message is easily visible, clearly legible and considers the needs of those with impairments. It is recommended the message is in the same section(s) of the menu in which burgers are listed and not obscured in any way.