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Publisher’s Platform: Trump orders his burgers well done

What will the president's views be on food safety for the rest of us?

Opinion

Bloomberg posted a piece on “How Donald Trump Orders (and Tips) at His Favorite Restaurant” about the 21 Club, which is just a few blocks from Trump Tower in Manhattan.

According to the report:

21 Club jockey logoThe president’s standard order is a “21” Burger ($36), which he likes cooked well-done and topped with American cheese. On the side he’ll have a straightforward virgin Bloody Mary, an iced tea, or a Diet Coke. Said to be first luxury burger in the country when it was first served in the 1940s, the “21” Burger is made with a mix of three prime cuts, including short rib. The burger comes with pickles, tomato, grilled onions, and the special “21” sauce and is offered with a choice of cheeses, including cheddar and blue cheese.

It had me recalling a post I did not long after President Obama first took office when he ordered a medium hamburger at Ray’s Hell Burger, a restaurant with a less than stellar inspection record.

Setting aside the fact that President Trump’s choice in doneness may well be the only thing that I agree with him on — and that I disagreed on with President Obama — it does appear that President Trump’s dinning choice appears to have a bit better inspection record.

As of Jan. 28, 21 Club‘s inspection garnered 12 points but received and A Grade. One inspection in 2016 scored 13 points, and two inspections 1n 2015 scored 6 and 11. In 2014 the restaurant’s scores were 12, 17, and 30.

According to the New York City Department of Health, a restaurant’s score depends on how well it follows city and state food safety requirements. Inspectors check for food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance and vermin control. Each violation earns a certain number of points. At the end of the inspection, the inspector totals the points and the number is the restaurant’s inspection score; the lower the score, the better.

John Greeley, executive chef at 21 from 2006 through 2013, cooked up a variety of foods in addition to the iconic "21 Burger" during his tenure at the New York hot spot.

John Greeley, executive chef at 21 from 2006 through 2013, cooked up a variety of foods in addition to the iconic “21 Burger” during his tenure at the New York hot spot.

The points assigned for any particular violation depend on the health risk it poses to the public. Violations fall into three categories:

  • Public health hazards, such as failing to keep food at the right temperature, triggers a minimum of 7 points. If the violation can’t be corrected before the inspection ends, the Health Department may close the restaurant until it’s fixed.
  • Critical violations, which include serving raw food such as a salad without properly washing it first, carries a minimum of 5 points.
  • General violations, such as not properly sanitizing cooking utensils, receive at least 2 points.

Inspectors assign additional points to reflect the extent of each violation. A violation’s condition level can range from 1 (least extensive) to 5 (most extensive). For example, the presence of one contaminated food item is a condition level 1 violation, generating 7 points. Four or more contaminated food items is a condition level 4 violation, resulting in 10 points.

So, it does make you wonder where food safety policy will fall in the Trump presidency?

President Obama’s time in office continued the downturn in E. coli cases linked to hamburger to the point that I actually ordered one — well done — for the first time in more than 20 years and he did sign into law the Food Safety Modernization Act.

What will President Trump do?

I have spent the last week asking some of the smartest people in food safety that question. Any input from readers is more than welcome. I will try and get my thoughts on the future of food safety posted in the coming weeks.

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