Steak hache saignant (rare) in school cantine question

Hello everyone,

Just a 'foodie' question, hoping some of you know the answer to this question.

Steak hache (hamburger) meat and red meat legally must be cooked to 65 degrees Celsius throughly in French school cantines (and other restauration collective like hospitals etc....)

My daughter is in 3eme at a college where the steak hache is always presented 'saignant' or as she says 'very pink'.

She dislikes the taste of meat cooked this way, and has asked the cantine chef if they would recook hers (no-not possible). The cantine chef assured my daughter that the meat is kept 'without microbes in a sterile environment.'

But I am more concerned with the risk of E-coli intoxication-which is only killed with high temperatures (and what I read is at least 70 degrees C).

I do know that all the meat served in French cantines must be of French origin (good!) but my question is:

when a steak hache is cooked to 65 degrees Celcius (from center point outward) doesn't this turn the meat brown? or to put it another way, if the steak hache is saignant, could we assume that the meat hasn't been cooked to at least 65 degrees Celcius?

If anyone knows the answer could you please let me know.


You are sweet Catharine-and of course YOU ARE RIGHT!

Personally I'd do what you think is right and not what may or may not be socially acceptable.

I'm just basing this on various incidents we have had over the years (esp. with the kids)when I've thought "oooh, should I shouldn't I?" and then other people have joined it saying "yes you should / no you shouldn't" which doesn't really help with the decision - so my benchmark now is "what do I think is the 'right' thing to do?" and go with that even if it does rock the boat. Just my perspective..

Anyway, you are such a polite, intelligent, charming person that I'm sure you will hit the right note!

Ha ha - remember those days well - one term my kids got fed so many carrots when we lived in Brittany that it put them off carrots for ages!

Hi Tracy-the cantine where my kids go serves steak hache about once a week. I am not sure though-they haven’t posted the menus online yet! Your daughter’s cantine sounds lovely. Bon Journee!

Hi Zoe, I agree …but I don’t think the cantine sticks to cooking the meat throughly. yes, an uphill battle-i talked to my daughter and she tells me that most of her friends like the meat well done and she is thinking of doing an informal poll /petition to see if her intuition is correct. I still may just ask about it with people I know in APEL. There was a big E-coli outbreak about 3-4 years ago? in Pau and in the area with a few kids ending up in ‘soins intensive’ from steak hache sold in Leclerc. It is a serious issue and can be fatal. Will have a think over it on the weekend.

I think it's great but my daughter hates carrots which feature heavily at the moment:-) it's the only veg she doesn't eat, well cooked anyway, she prefers them raw.

Blimey - that looks good - coriander too!

I think Zoe has a point, millions of people in France eat very pink steak hache every day and go positively green at the thought of non-pink meat. I would simply tell my daughter not to choose/eat the stake hache if she doesn't like it, end of. It's a bit like going to Japan and getting upset about raw fish.

I would be more concerned about the fact that the meal is 6 euros and only being offered steak hache every day. My kids go to a Catholic school and the meal is 5.9€ (for primaire), there is no choice and from CE2 they are obliged to take and eat a bit of everything. However, no steak hache in sight and last week they come home highly excited as they had had chips for the first time at school:-) Take a look!

Perhaps, but going into a restaurant telling the waiter to stop serving tartare out of concerns for other diners is where this is going.

If other kids are upset, they will voice their concerns, this is France, after all. lol.

If it were about shark fin soup, I would be in the parking myself, with a billbord and megaphone to back her up, but for pink meat in a country where raw is ok, it will be an uphill battle, I'm sure.
There are laws concerning meat, and once the cantine says they adhere to them, there is no way someone can overturn that on a mass scale.

Hi Zoe, I totally see where you are coming from. I would approach the situation with ‘delicatesse’ (right spelling?-i mean to be very polite). I know some people in the APEL -I would just ‘offer’ my concerns, write an ‘inquiring’ letter -perhaps. My daughter is worried about her friends eating this meat without it being at the right temperature. I tried to calm my daughter to tell her that I was quite sure that the sanitation /inspections/ etc…at the school cantine was up to par-and that the reason the steak hache is served so pink is due to preferences. But you know how teenagers are-she is not letting go! She feels the meat should be cooked more thoroughly for everyone…
Will let you know how it works out.

I would leave it at that, to be honest... tackling a chef on E coli, in a country where Tartare is the norm is risky... the chef was kind, great, push your luck, and you might end up making enemies fast.

Just as a quick reply to those who have commented: the chef at the school cantine was kind enough to cook my daughter’s steak hache ‘bien cuit’ today (without promoting ) after her ‘discussion’ with him a few days ago. My daughter was happy but she was still concerned about the microbes (E-coli) in her friend’s steak hache. I will probably go forward to inquire about these steaks with the APEL-(parent’s assoc) and let you know what happens. But I feel happy about the immediate events that the chef tooks his time to cook my daughter’s steak hache to her liking. Kudos!

The taste of the meat being off is not about the cooking, it is about the quality. Good quality haché would taste good, even if completely raw, whereas even cooked till dried up, bad quality meat will always taste tinny, metallic.

In a country like France, having a child start a petition to combat one of their most dearly held values could possibly do more harm than good. Too many expats kids are already bullied in the cantine.

Ask the intendance if the burgers are made on site from bits of meat which they chop (this is the case at my daughters' schools) or packet stuff bought in. If they are bought in you have a chance of getting them cooked more, what with horror stories in the press...You might still have a hard time convincing them to cook them right through whatever the source of the burgers though because many French children don't like and won't eat what they see as overcooked meat. Mine would eat steak tartare every day if it were on offer and eat lumps of meat bleu. They don't eat what they see as overcooked beef.

Lunch seems quite expensive but it is probably no more so than in state schools, you just aren't getting the subsidy that state schools receive, which makes the difference to the bills parents get.

Getting a microwave could be an option but might again be seen as a hazard - try it and see. Maybe the APEL would fund it. I don't know who might use it though as microwaved meat is utterly disgusting (personal opinion, obviously) ;-)

If you do go & raise it as a problem with the APEL, have a possible solution (or several different ones) to offer them as well as a complaint - it'll go down a lot better. I speak as an ex-president of the APEL!!


My immediate feeling is that I will contact APEL (parents d'eleves) and voice my concerns. I know that at this school there were issues with the cantine in the past and they were rectified by a liason between the director , APEL and cantine staff. The lunches are 6 euros-(wow!) because it is a private (French) school, and I believe that with this large investment for each meal, the students should be satisfied they are getting a nutritious, tasty and filling meal.

I will also ask about a microwave (but I have high feelings that this will be a no-go).

Will let you know what happens (but probably this will be in a few weeks/months!-things move slow here).


Hi Mary, yes, if the inside is still pink then it hasn't reached a high enough temperature to be cooked through - therefore any bugs on/in the meat will be nicely multiplying in the warm and moist conditions. Years ago I saw a programme about a guy who bought a burger from McD's and his son ate it and became really ill. He campaigned for burgers to be cooked through - don't recall the outcome, but the easy test for consumers to check if they are at risk of e coli and other gastro bugs is to cut the patty in half and if it's pink it's not cooked enough.

That article (link above) also talked about irradiation but unless it's labelled, how do you know it's been done? Meat coming from a certain country or region is no guarantee of being bug-free.

How do you think you will proceed with the school?

Thank you Pamela,

My concern definitely is with the mince (steak hache) and less with pieces of meat. I appreciate your answer and link. The French linformation I have read (the 'directives') from AFSSA (French Food Safety Assoc.) to the school cantines that was published in 2007 are not clear on the cuisson/cooking -and just state that the interior of the meat (mince meat included) must be 65 degrees C minimum. That is why I was wondering at what temperature the mince meat turns slightly brown. In French school cantines , as the big favorite of kids is mince meat and red meat 'saignant' (this was written in the directives too) I don't think I have much chance to make all the meat in this college cantine be cooked brown. My main concern is that the interior of the mince meat is at least 65 degrees C (and preferably more), even if the meat is 'slightly pink.'

Surely, if they're serving that many meals, it wouldn't be unreasonable to request a microwave for the use of the students? Perhaps the sou de l'école or equivalent could provide one. Basic models are quite inexpensive. As well as enabling additional cooking, as in your daughter's case, they're also great at reheating a meal if needed for any reason.

That sounds like sensible advice Pamela