Undercooked Beef Reported in Washington Burger Kings

September 9, 2011

Extremely troubling news out of Washington State this morning. State health inspectors sent Burger King's corporate offices a letter on September 1, warning of a "disturbing trend" of undercooked beef patties at restaurants in at least 7 counties throughout the state. 

"As we discussed, we are deeply concerned about reports relating to undercooking hamburgers at many Burger Kings in our state...Inspection reports from several of our local health jurisdictions show a disturbing trend," the letter said

According to reports, on July 29 an inspector found a burger in a Pierce County Burger King that had been cooked to just 131 degrees. E coli continues to live until 140 degrees, but the suggested cooking temperature is 160 degrees. Health inspectors launched a wider inspection and found similar problems in 6 of the 13 Burger King locations in that county. A statewide inspection found systematic problems in at least 6 other counties (some reports suggest 9 other counties).  

Inspectors said many of the company's "flamebroilers" were missing tiles, which reduced the amount of heat emanating from them. Employees did not know how to verify the temperature of cooked beef patties and thought placing them in a microwave oven briefly would make them safe to eat. 

Burger King responded to the allegations in a statement, "franchise operators are now taking immediate action to ensure that their restaurants are meeting the company's stringent food preparation procedures, which include cooking hamburger patties to a target temperature of 165 degrees F, as well as, verifying cooking temperatures at least four times a day."

In 1993, an E coli outbreak at Washington Jack in the Box restaurants killed four people, sickened 700 and nearly bankrupted the company. 

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