Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Served Raw or Undercooked

On October 16, 2007, the Virginia Department of Health required all restaurants in the state to help protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from themselves. We, the restaurants that is, are now required to tell our customers that items are served raw or undercooked might be hazardous with a statement such as the following:

*Served raw or undercooked or may be ordered undercooked. The Virginia Department of Health warns you that raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

I have put the blame for this nonsense squarely on the VDH by stating that they are the ones warning you. I operate from the premise that my customers are adults and do not need or want me helping them to decide what is appropriate for their diets.

Do I have to tell you how stupid this warning looks taped to the front of the display case at my favorite sushi bar?

Do you have any idea what a nightmare this verbiage at the bottom of our menus has been for our servers? Can you imagine how many times a shift they must answer the question, "Does this mean that the quail is served raw?"

The VDH, following the lead of the FDA, has decided that most proteins and potentially harmful foods must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees. Have you ever had a steak cooked to 155 degrees? It's a travesty, a lump of shoe leather, and a dishonor to the cow that died so that we could eat it.

The required statement on our menu merely articulates that for certain food items such as steaks, you may order it rare if you like, but don't say that the VDH didn't warn you that you might get sick. They don't bother to mention that you have a higher chance of getting killed by a drunk driver on the way home from the restaurant, do they?

And for other foods where we don't give you the choice of how you want it cooked, the warning is stating that we're not going to make shoe leather out of that duck, because you're either going to send it back or go tell everyone you know how bad it was.

I've been in restaurants long enough to know that bad things can happen when people handle food and I know that the VDH is sincerely trying to help prevent that. But, guys, a regulation that causes more confusion on the part of the consumer is not helping.

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