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Sep 8, 2008 10:08 AM

Burger Law in Toronto/Ontario?

At the Mill St. Brewery on Saturday, I tried ordering a hamburger medium rare only to be told by the waiter that they can only cook it medium well or more due to the "burger law". I know this has been discussed before, but rather than argue with him, I thought I'd arm myself with clear cut facts first rather than spread misinformation.

Is it a law, an enforceable guideline or a recommendation that burgers have be cooked medium well and can't have any pink in them? If you have any official sources, please cite them as they would be excellent references to use when trying to order a hamburger your way.

I'd do a search, but I'm terrible at searching.

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  1. It's a guideline. If a restaurant grinds their own hamburger, using sanitized equipment, they can cook to medium or rare. Allen's does this, and a few others. I suspect there has to be a history of origin if a problem arises. That is not possible with hamburger from a tray or a tube.

    1. Restauranteurs and their certified staff are scared into submission. I ran a catering business and the regulators tell you to cook all ground meat to 71C or face fines and lawsuits. Most certified food handlers and owners do not want to "risk" any trouble unecessarily. If you want pink burgers, go elsewhere. It isn't law but who wants to be sued by some patron complaining about undercooked meat that made them sick?

      Handlers are trained as part of their ceritification -
      "cook hamburger (no poultry) all the way through to an internal temperature of 71°C, making sure the juices run clear and the meat is brown or grey

      Ground meat is very dangerous as the pathogens are mixed throughout the meat mixture in the grinding process. An illness caused by eating improperly cooked ground meat, commonly known as "hamburger disease," is caused by E. coli 0157:H7. "

      The regulations are made to hopefully ensure the public is served safe food from all those who are cooking for us; no matter their intelligence. Many owners and chefs with half a brain, and reasonable control over their supply, will serve pink burgers.

      1. The rules about food temperature are not a guideline, but a regulation (at least in BC). Try googling "food premises regulation ontario".

        From the BC Food Premises Regulation:

        Processing, storage and display
        14 (1) Every operator of food premises that processes food must ensure that the food is processed in a manner that makes it safe to eat.

        (2) Every operator of food premises must ensure that potentially hazardous food is stored or displayed at a temperature of not more than 4°C or not less than 60°C.
        (3) Every operator of food premises must ensure that frozen food is stored or displayed at a temperature of not more than -18°C.

        "potentially hazardous food" means food in a form or state that is capable of supporting the growth of disease-causing microorganisms or the production of toxins;

        So this is saying that you can't serve a burger that is cooler than 60 degrees C. But that's not medium-well, that's medium-rare or less, isn't it?

        Sounds like to me they're using the burger law as an excuse so they don't have to skate too close to the line. Unless there is something more specific in ON that I don't know about.

        1 Reply
        1. re: victoriafoodie

          Yes but that is for buffet type display and food storage, not serving fresh food.

        2. It's not a law, it's a Public Health recommendation/safe food handling guideline.

          Every establishment that serves food in Toronto must have at least one staff with a 'Safe Food Handlers' certificate, and in turn, train/inform the rest of the staff.
          There are no cops or lawyers involved, just Health Inspectors from the City. Should someone become sick from eating undercooked meat, and it can be traced to a dish from a specific restaurant (the biggest challenge), the establishment will get inspected and if there are any violations, possibly closed down.
          Next time someone mentions 'burger law', ask them for an explanation.

          2 Replies
          1. re: thenurse

            You are right, of course. The problem is that inspectors come into restaurants and literally tell the staff and management that it is against the law to serve a burger that isn't well done. I have heard restaurants threatened with closure over this supposed "law" or "regulation" that simply isn't!

            There is a guideline stating that meat cooked to more than 160 F is safe. But it is perfectly possible to poison customers by serving well done burgers touched by employees who have handled cash, tied their shoelaces, blown their noses, or (let's not pretend that it doesn't happen) didn't wash their hands sufficiently, or at all, after using the toilet.

            The bottom line is that one must handle food safely so as to not cause illness. The temperatures are guidelines only. They are suggestions to lessen the probability of serving unsafe food. However, they do not eliminate the possibility of serving unsafe food and they do NOT set temperature requirements for freshly cooked food. Indeed, the guidelines for chicken virtually guarantee chicken inedible by anyone with functional tastebuds.

            Some places do have temperature related laws. Toronto is NOT one of these places. There are, indeed, regulations in Toronto for safe food display and storage temperatures (some of them critically important; some of them nonsensical). That is another matter entirely.

            1. re: thenurse

              You sound pretty sure of yourself.

              Isn't anyone familiar with Ontario Regulation 562, which is reportedly upheld by Toronto Public Health? It states that the internal temperature of ground meat (except poultry) must be 160F. I have read the "guidelines" but to get a Green Pass, the city states that you must meet or exceed O. Reg 562.

              Your thoughts??

            2. That law completely sucks. I love my burgers medium rare. No restaurant should serve something they think is unsafe, but restaurants have long been serving medium rare.