Our Food is Totally Safe (But Sign Here in Case it’s Not!)

Last weekend, I ate at an excellent Ottawa-area burger joint (“The Works”). A family member asked for her all-beef burger “medium rare,” and the waitress cheerfully said, “OK, no problem…you don’t mind signing our waiver?” Pictured below is the waiver:

The picture’s a little blurry. But the text says:

I HEREBY DECLARE MY LOVE OF ALL MEATS RED!

To that end I request that my beef burger be cooked rarer than the Ottawa Health Department prescribed doneness of 165 Degrees Fahrenheit.

I make this decision freely, and will not hold “The Works” or any of it’s managers, employees, shareholders or directors responsible or liable for any illness, side-effects or sickness that may occur as a result of the eating of an undercooked ground meat burger as requested by me.

I declare that I am at least 16 years of age.

This isn’t unique. For articles about restaurants in other countries doing the same thing, see:

(For those who don’t know, the standard advice is to cook beef well to kill off potentially deadly bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. But people who are serious beef lovers will tell you that cooking beef as well as health officials suggest essentially ruins it.)

So, in other words, the relevant health authority (Ottawa Public Health, in this case) says what you’re about to eat is unsafe. Do you want to do it anyway? A waiver like this seems a reasonable approach: public health authorities issue guidelines that are risk-averse, probably setting a standard that allows for a substantial margin of error. It’s not insane to deviate from such standards — as long as you know what you’re doing. On the other hand, it’s not clear that this waiver does anything to ensure the latter. It is a consent form, but its use does nothing to ensure that consent is informed.

1 comment so far

  1. tom on

    This kind of contradicts other things.I mean the agency says that you can’t have rare meat but they allow restaurants to do it as long as people sign it?In a way, it gives people free will, to make their own decisions, but on the other hand, do they really know what they are choosing?I mean there are other products or ingredients that are totally banned by the government.is this a matter of time and how many cases of people getting sick of rare meat before they change their decision?


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