Burger jpgBrandi Kruse from KIRO News Radio beaks a big story – “Burger King has ‘disturbing trend’ of serving undercooked meat”  According to Kruse:

Improper cooking techniques have resulted in “dangerously undercooked” hamburger patties being served at Burger King restaurants across Washington state, and health officials are concerned the problem could be happening in franchises nationwide.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department first reported the problem on July 29 after a routine health inspection resulted in a “potentially hazardous” violation at a Burger King in Puyallup. The inspector expressed concern to her supervisors that the undercooked meat was due to a glitch with equipment, and the incident might not be isolated.

“So we went ahead and proactively inspected all 13 of their outlets in Pierce County,” said Dr. Anthony Chen, Director of Health for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The inspector was right; roughly half of Pierce County locations were serving undercooked meat.

“We spoke to the Department of Health and turned it over to them,” Chen said.

After discovering similar violations across at least 10 counties statewide, the State Health Department sent Burger King a letter on September 1, with their findings.

“We are deeply concerned about reports relating to undercooking hamburgers at many Burger Kings in our state,” read the letter, obtained by KIRO Radio.

“Inspection reports from several of our local health jurisdictions show a disturbing trend.”

Among the potential dangers detailed in the letter was a concern with the “Duke Flamebroiler,” the piece of equipment that is meant to give Burger King hamburgers their signature flame broil. Products coming off the broiler were sometimes undercooked as “broken ceramic tiles” inside the units reduced the cook temperatures and allowed insulation to fall onto the food.

There were also several concerns with employee error. For instance, employees “did not know how to take final cook temperatures of burgers.” Some workers “did not know that undercooked patties should be discarded,” and believed a brief microwave step would “remedy” any issues with undercooking.

I raised the specter of Jack in the Box II:

“What Burger King doesn’t want to see happen is another Jack in the Box case and that certainly could happen,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety attorney who handled some of the high-profile cases related to the Jack in the Box outbreak. “It’s likely that if there is an ongoing problem with these grills, it’s not just in one restaurant or in a handful of restaurants. It may be in literally dozens or hundreds of these restaurants. If they’re not doing something about it and you’ve got an outbreak that occurs, I wouldn’t want to be Burger King.”

“Just undercooking things by 10 degrees can cause a significant public health concern. It could allow E. coli or salmonella to remain in the hamburger,” he said. “A child might be ingesting literally hundreds of these bacteria. It’s the reason why cook temps are 160 degrees for hamburgers; slight variations in temperature can mean the difference between life and death.”