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Kokua Line

Restaurants required to cook foods to certain temperatures


Question: Big City Diner says on its menu that it serves hamburgers "cooked medium as required under State of Hawaii Department of Health regulations." Do Hawaii regulations really require that? If so, are all those restaurants that serve medium-rare hamburgers breaking the regulations?

Answer: The Health Department requires hamburgers and other such foods to be cooked to specified minimum temperatures — not to terms such as "medium" — but they can be cooked and served otherwise at the request of a customer.

"However, because of liability and other operational issues, some restaurants may choose not to honor a customer’s request for less than required cooking times or temperatures," said Craig Onaga, supervisor the Sanitation Branch. "It is each restaurant’s choice."

Because of recent illnesses traced to improperly cooked hamburgers, he said many restaurants have chosen to serve only hamburgers cooked to minimum temperatures and holding times specified by the Health Department: 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds, 150 degrees Fahrenheit for one minute or 145 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes.

"The often-used terms ‘medium’ or ‘medium rare,’ or the use of color to determine doneness has no relation to these proper cooking temperatures," Onaga said.

Hamburger cooked otherwise may be served or offered for sale, ready to eat, at the request of or with the knowledge of the consumer, he said.

Section 11-12-25(g) of the Health Department’s Administrative Rules on "Food Establishment Sanitation" requires "potentially hazardous foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, meat and foods containing these raw animal foods to be cooked to heat all parts of the food to specified minimum temperatures."

Although Big City Diner menus do say only hamburgers cooked "medium" (to the state-required minimum temperatures) are served, it has long provided hamburgers cooked any other way at the request of customers, a spokeswoman said.

However, those customers have to sign a waiver, and a disclaimer is put on checks saying, "Due to health safety concerns, Big City Diner does not assume any liability for consumption of rare or medium rare ground beef ordered at the sole request of the consumer."

Question: Our regular day for garbage pickup is once a week on Saturday, which is the day Christmas and New Year’s fall this year. What do we do?

Answer: You’ll have to wait a day or two.

The city picks up trash on all holidays except Christmas and New Year’s Day.

For those on the three-cart collection system, with weekly Saturday pickup, your trash will be picked up the following Monday or Tuesday.

However, if your recycling day falls on those days, you’ll just have to wait past the holidays. Hold mixed recyclables and green waste until the next scheduled pickup.

For those with twice-a-week manual collection, you are asked to hold your refuse until the next scheduled pickup.




To Arthur Ho. During a recent Friday evening rush hour on King Street, he noticed my flat tire. He motioned me to a safe turnoff area, changed the tire, then directed traffic so I could safely return to the road. What a good Samaritan. — Dorothy Sellers

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail


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