New rules prohibit restaurants grilling medium-rare burger
New Zealand's oldest licensed premises has pulled a burger that's been the cornerstone of its menu – blaming it on bureaucratic red tape gone mad.
Dan Fraser, executive chef at the Duke of Marlborough restaurant in the Bay of Islands, was left stewing after a visit from a Ministry of Primary Industries inspector on Thursday.
New food preparation guidelines from MPI state minced meat and liver needs to be cooked at high temperatures for a longer amount of time than previously, to avoid contamination.
Fraser said the new rules were a raw deal and will now prevent him serving his signature burger The Governor's Burger which is pink and juicy in the middle.
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The Governor's Burger features bacon, cheese, pickle, tomato, chipotle mayonnaise and a medium rare beef mince patty.
"It's a really good burger, we really pride ourselves in presenting it to our customers," Fraser said.
"Occasionally we get Americans that come in and want it more rare, or English that come in and want it more well-cooked, and we accommodate them, but now we can't any more.
"Basically, the ministry is telling us how our customers need to eat their food."
MPI food and beverage manager Sally Johnston, said the new rules didn't entirely ban medium-rare meat – but chefs would have to change how they cooked it.
"If they do want to serve a medium-rare burger, it is possible, it just might take a little more forethought and planning," Johnston said.
"It is possible to cook a medium-rare burger safely, it just means that they need to think about the processes that they are using to do that. It might not be necessarily possible to do that on a BBQ or grill."
She suggest sous vide methods of cooking instead – what people used to call boil-in-the-bag.
"Who the f*** wants a sous vide burger?", Fraser said.
The new rules state meat should have an internal minimum temperature of 65°C for 15 minutes while cooked, 70°C for three minutes, or 75°C for 30 seconds.
But Fraser said those were rules drawn up by a bureaucrat and not a chef. They meant a beef mince patty would always be "rubbery and devoid of flavour".
"What they don't understand is over 70 degrees is well done," Fraser said. "That's not a burger I'm willing to serve in my restaurant."
Johnston insists the new rules are necessary. "People have died from under cooked burgers, there is a genuine food safety risk here, we're not doing this to take the fun out of food,"
"Bugs that have caused people to die (such as E-Coli) are frequently found in New Zealand meat."
The new MPI guidelines detail how restaurants and food businesses should prepare, store and serve their food, and supplement the 2014 Food Act.
The main changes from the previous 2015 standards, as outlined in the Simply Safe and Suitable Template Food Control Plan, apply to the preparation of raw food.
The template says all minced meat, poultry, and chicken livers should be cooked thoroughly as they are "likely to be contaminated with bugs".
Other meats can be served rare, but must be seared before serving.
Fraser said the rules will also cause issues for serving steak tartare, beef carpaccio, pate or chicken livers.
"I challenge you to find a duck liver pate that's cooked at those high temperatures where the eggs haven't scrambled and it's gone all grainy."
Duke owner Anton Haagh agreed the new rules would cause problems.
"It's sad, there are now some quite famous dishes from around the world that we can no longer give to customers."
The MPI rules are rolling out to 5000 restaurants around New Zealand.
Johnston said it was about "enabling people to make whatever food they like, as long as they make it safe and suitable".
She admitted there could be some restaurants that had issues with the new rules.
"We'd be really happy to have a chat to the chefs in question to talk about how they can continue to have some of the higher risk items in their menu."
She said the 2014 Food Act allowed some leeway for chefs to write their own customised food control plans, but they would need to assessed by an expert and would cost the restaurant "quite a bit extra."
Fraser said he was told he could apply to prove The Governor was safe, but at cost of "thousands of dollars."
Haagh said the list of hoops a restaurant had to jump through under the new rules was "unbelievable".
"The government said this food control plan is going to be easier and simpler for restaurants.
"But in the last year, between Dan and myself, we would have spent about a month filling out forms and getting this done."
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- Sunday Star Times