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Burger bill dangerous

An editorial on The Herald Online in South Carolina discussed those of us that prefer to eat their hamburgers on the rare side, and a new bill being introduced.

Since the mid-1990s, the state has required restaurants to cook hamburgers one way: Well done. But a bill recently passed by the General Assembly would allow patrons to order burgers cooked to less than 155 degrees.

The new rule, which still must be signed into law by the governor, comes weighted down with special provisions. For example, only those 18 or older could order a medium-rare burger. Restaurants would be permitted to choose whether they want to offer burgers cooked to lower temperatures, and those that do must provide written or verbal notice to let diners know the restaurant cannot be held responsible if someone gets sick.

The editorial reminds us that cooking hamburger meat to 155 degrees or higher eliminates the risk of foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. They ask, "when restaurants are involved, the question of liability becomes more complicated. What if an underage patron is served a medium rare hamburger, gets sick and dies? Who should be held legally responsible?"

A year ago, South Carolina faced the largest case of food-borne illness in recent history. Nearly 300 people were sickened from a salmonella outbreak at a restaurant. One patron died. More than 40,000 people are poisoned by salmonella each year, about 600 of them dying from the illness. The editorial asks why legislators would consider passing a bill that allows for the possibility of a repeat.

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