McDonald's has announced that their Quarter Pounder burgers will be made with fresh beef rather than frozen at the majority of their restaurants by the middle of next year, following a successful year of testing at restaurants in Oklahoma and Texas. However, some McDonald's franchisees feel that this could be "a food safety disaster waiting to happen". Mike Williams, Director of food safety consultancy STS, takes a look at the issues:
"McDonald's have taken an interesting step here and it's clear that the quality of their product is at the forefront of their thinking. Cooking and serving chilled, fresh burgers might be new to McDonald's but many branded groups and individual operators across the UK have been doing this for years with a great deal of success. McDonald's are not suggesting that customers can choose how their burger is cooked, so this step change does not enter the realm of the rare burger debate, rather it's simply a case of ensuring that the burgers are stored and handled in a manner that reduces cross contamination risks."
"McDonald's are renowned for their robust training regimes and it is fully expected that they will implement suitable and thorough training programmes to ensure that customer safety is maintained at all times. However, such a drastic change will probably require a period of adjustment and mistakes may well happen. The first step in reducing risk is to ensure that the meat supply chain is well controlled and it's safe to assume that McDonald's will have this well in hand. Looking at the handling methods that are implemented on a day to day basis by staff members is the next step, and ensuring that personal hygiene standards are maintained at the highest level is critical. McDonald's may be a fast food outlet but let's hope that this doesn't mean fast hand hygiene at the expense of contamination control!"