The Canadian Law That Forbids Juicy Medium Hamburgers

There's a lot to love about Canadian food, from its iconic maple syrup to poutine, ketchup chips, and fresh seafood from the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. But, unfortunately, lovers of a juicy, pink hamburger may find The Great White North a less-than-ideal place to chow down.

Perhaps surprisingly, those dining out at a Canadian restaurant will find they won't legally be able to order a burger served with an internal temperature lower than 71 degrees Celsius (roughly 160 degrees Fahrenheit,) the minimum cooking temperature recommended by the Canadian government. That's far higher than the 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit target for medium rare and even beyond the 150-155 degrees that creates a medium well burger. While food safety standards are set by local or provincial governments, most typically stick to this requirement, making anything other than well-done burgers a rare find in Canadian restaurants. 

While it may seem strange to regulate the temperature of burgers while leaving other high-risk foods like sushi or even rare steaks unrestricted, there's some logic to the move. It may be unpleasant to consider, but all meat is potentially exposed to harmful bacteria in the process of going from the slaughterhouse to your kitchen. In most cases, this bacteria is concentrated on the surface, where it can be easily killed by the cooking process.

Is ground beef riskier than other raw foods?

Unfortunately, according to Consumer Reports, ground beef allows that bacteria to work its way into the interior of the meat, where only appropriate temperatures can kill it. Not killing off these harmful organisms is a common way to end up with food poisoning, especially for vulnerable folks like the elderly, children, or those with compromised immune or digestive systems.

However, not everyone is happy about the restrictions – particularly chefs and other gourmets. Speaking to the National Post, Gilbert Noussitou, who serves as chair of culinary arts at Camosun College in Victoria, B.C., compared 71-degree burgers to "shoe leather," while an anonymous restauranteur argued he'd served 100,000 burgers of varying doneness with no issues.

Those looking for a bit more pink in their hamburger will need to cook out at home or find one of the restaurants throughout the country rumored to serve burgers cooked to order. Just don't count on finding it on the menu.