Many of us watch cookery programmes on TV, but we need to be careful – for example, ‘Saturday Kitchen’ (17 Dec 2011) advised viewers to cook liver pink – potentially very risky thing to do. The reason for this is that chicken, ox and lamb livers can contain a very nasty bug called Campylobacter. This bacterium can cause severe diarrhoea and can lead to stomach pains being so severe that in the past patients have had their appendix removed in error, as hospitals have misdiagnosed their illness. The single greatest cause of Campylobacter outbreaks at catering events in 2011 was found to be undercooked chicken liver parfaits. http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/NationalPressReleases/2011PressReleases/111202Campylobacterinchickenlivers/
EHO Action on Undercooked Liver
EHOs in London have been taking a strong stance on not allowing restaurants to serve undercooked liver of any type. Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden, linked to Michelin Starred Chef Raymond Blanc, was issued a warning in June 2012 after a complaint linking the restaurant to a confirmed case of Campylobacter. A second confirmed case in August highlighted that chefs had not heeded the warning, leading to Westminster Council serving a notice preventing the restaurant from serving undercooked lambs liver. The Brasserie Bar Co, which has 18 restaurants, has taken the decision to no longer serve liver at any of its restaurants stating that “in order to serve liver and comply with Westminster Council, it would need to be overcooked to such an extent that our customers just won’t eat it.”
Recipes Still Say Undercook Liver
A quick trawl of the internet on how chefs advise on cooking liver shows the message is still to cook it quickly and keep it pink!! Whilst nobody wants cremated inedible liver (I’m sure a lot of us can remember the grainy, tough liver in school dinners), the advice from the Food Standards Agency is that all liver is cooked to a temperature of 70°C for 2 minutes or 75°C for 15 seconds to kill any bacteria. I’d add that good general hygiene practices be followed to avoid cross contamination with Campylobacter and that hand washing after handling any raw meat is also critical.
So the choice is: Do as Monsieur Blanc has done and take liver off the menu; or ensure that at least minimum core temperatures are achieved to kill the bugs. We routinely work with companies trying to get the balance between product quality and consumer safety.
In the same way that I recently tested if duck could be cooked ‘pink’ whilst still reaching a safe cooking temperature, I intend this weekend to experiment with liver and cooking temperatures….I’m sure “him indoors” can’t wait!