Brasserie Bar Co, the group behind the Raymond Blanc-founded casual dining chain Brasserie Blanc, maintains the view that its rare lamb's liver dish does not pose a health risk to customers, despite having been banned from serving it at all of its restaurants.
Two diners at Brasserie Blanc Covent Garden complained of food poisoning after they had the dish on separate occasions this summer, and the restaurant group failed to heed a warning from environmental health officers about the lamb's liver, which they claim posed an ‘immediate risk of injury to health,’ Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.
But Brasserie Bar Co’s marketing director Kathryn Coury disagrees with the ruling that the dish, which was priced at £13.50, caused the food poisoning.
“Brasserie Blanc has always taken food safety extremely seriously,” said Coury. “We removed lamb’s liver from the menu at all of our brasseries on 9 August when the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) advised us that there was a suspected food poisoning case.
“The court did not find such food poisoning and despite what has been reported in the media, there is no evidence that anyone has been made ill by lamb’s liver served at any of our brasseries and we have served the dish 26,000 times in the past year.
“Since the notice was served in August, we have undertaken two separate batches of tests on the dish, the first by our primary local authority, the second by an independent EHO. No dangerous bacteria were discovered.
“We are consulting with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to explore ways of cooking all types of offal to the satisfaction of both the council and our customers.”
Guidance from the FSA recommends that lamb's liver must be cooked at 70°C for at least two minutes. The court heard that a woman fell ill from eating the ‘undercooked’ meat at Brasserie Blanc Covent Garden on 22 June.
Chefs at Brasserie Blanc then ignored a warning from council officials in July to cook the lamb liver more thoroughly, with another customer then apparently falling ill from the same dish on 9 August.
Brasserie Bar Co has now taken liver off the menu at all 18 of its Brasserie Blanc restaurants throughout the UK after it was ordered to pay £3,103 in costs.
Public health risk
James Armitage, Westminster City Council’s food, health & safety manager, said: “After receiving two separate complaints of food poisoning which may have originated from eating at a Covent Garden restaurant, our officers investigated and issued a notice which prevented the restaurant from serving undercooked lambs’ liver.
”Today’s court decision to uphold the notice is welcome as the serving of undercooked meat, without suitable controls in place, is a public health risk. Health inspectors have agreed with the restaurant the safety measures that need to be in place for the restaurant to be allowed to safely put the dish back on its menu.
“With over 5,000 food establishments in Westminster, it is important that our team remains vigilant during routine inspections in order to prevent cases such as these from arising.”
Earlier this year, Blanc, owner of two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons restaurant in Oxfordshire, wrote that ‘a short cooking time is essential’ for his lamb's liver persillade Kitchen Secrets recipe – with the chef advising that the lamb liver slices should be cooked for 30 seconds on each side for medium-rare.