CBSN

Chefs Steamed At Food Police

A new get tough law has turned up the heat in restaurant kitchens in California. Any chef who serves a medium rare burger, steak or chop could now face a grilling by the food police.

Tim Ong, is one of those detectives on patrol. He is in search of something rare.

Armed only with his thermometer Ong is enforcing a controversial new law that sets minimum cooking temperatures for almost everything.

The goal is to eradicate e-coli bacteria which can cause sickness and even death. But by legislating that most everything leave the kitchen well done California's lawmakers have enraged California's chefs.

Chef Brian Whitmer can be positively poetic about a sauteed salmon. "The beautiful nuance of a salmon being medium rare is that you can have a really crispy fish on the outside and then a nice silky finish inside," said Whitmer.
But if salmon is cooked the way the law now requires "...it's dry all the way through. It's way too depressing to even imagine."

Even the traditional Caesar salad is threatened. The food police can crack down if they find raw eggs in the dressing.

Caesar salad purists including Assemblywomen Carole Migdon are trying to get the law rolled back.

For now there's one way around the new law...waiters can ask customers, "Would you like that prepared in the traditional way with farm fresh eggs, or would you like a pasteurized egg?"

If a customer demands a raw egg, or a burger that's pink in the middle, the food police don't have a case.

Between consenting adults is a medium rare burger is ok?
Even Ong said, "I prefer more on the rare side myself."

And with that, this story is well done.

For John Blackstone's full report, click above.

©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved