Windsor

Chef serves up raw meat protest in Windsor

At least one Windsor chef plans to protest the local health unit's crackdown on raw meat dishes by serving two as specials this weekend.

Rino's Kitchen will have lamb tartare and lambe Carpaccio on special this weekend

Rino Bortolin called the health unit's decision to ban kibbeh culturally insensitive. (Courtesy Courtney Renaud/Converged Citizen)

At least one Windsor chef plans to protest the local health unit’s crackdown on raw meat dishes.

Rino Bortolin will serve raw meat dishes lamb tartare and lamb Carpaccio this Canada Day weekend.

Other raw meat dishes

Steak Tartare

Carpaccio

Ceviche

"Until an inspector tells me to stop, I’ll keep serving it. And if they tell me to stop, I will probably still do it," Bortolin said.

The decision flies in the face of the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, which has banned the raw beef dish kibbeh from a handful of Lebanese restaurants. It also told one restaurant to stop serving steak tartare in May.

Bortolin called the health unit "culturally insensitive" to "hard-working small businesses."

"Certain preparations have been accepted for years and pose no harm when done properly. Those have been on menus for decades," Bortolin said. "These meats and dishes have been prepared and eaten this way for centuries."

Bortolin said the health unit has overreacted to an incident in Ottawa.

In February, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a media release warning customers to not consume finely ground beef sold at New Middleast Supermarket in Ottawa.

"The affected ground beef is a finely ground raw beef known to be used for Kebbeh," the release said.

The release never mentioned a restaurant. In an email sent Wednesday, CBC News asked the CFIA why it made reference to a specific dish. The agency has not responded.

The owner of the New Middleast Supermarket told CBC News that he didn't sell the beef to restaurants and that the meat in question was consumed by a customer.

"If it’s the source material, investigate that source and fix that problem," Bortolin said.

Chef calls regulations into question

Chief medical officer Dr. Allen Heimann said beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 C for 15 seconds before public consumption.

Bortolin contends the law does not prohibit him from serving raw meat, only that he must "be aware of susceptible segments of society," such as children and the sick.

Bortolin said he hasn’t yet heard the reason behind the health unit's sudden enforcement. He said he’s not aware of anyone in Windsor getting sick after eating kibbeh at a restaurant.

Heimann said that, to his knowledge, the local health unit never received a complaint about kibbeh being served at restaurants in Windsor.

"If they did, they would have used it as an example," Bortolin said.

Heimann said inspectors are just enforcing rules already on the books.

Bortolin said the health unit should instead be educating the public on safe food preparation.

"You can easily use this as a teaching tool," Bortolin said. "Instead of banning it outright, ask questions. We don’t need a government body telling us to eat here and eat this."

He said before ordering, customers should ask when a restaurant’s meat arrived and where it came from.

"I welcome people asking questions," he said. "All my meat comes fresh from Essex County. We do that for a reason."