Celia, of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, asked "Does the traditional food rule apply to dishes like steak tartare?"
Yes, is the short answer.
Steak Tartare is a traditional food.
Despite the rantings of Professor A. C. Grayling, philosopher and vegetarian irrationalist, meat is not full of bacteria. (See here) Once you cut it, though, bacteria is introduced and the life of the meat starts being reduced.
A number of things need to be remembered:
- The amount of bacteria that you introduce in chopping the meat is quite small. Especially if you take care to use clean knife.
- Bacteria, at room temperature, will double in numbers every 20min, so what starts out as a low level can rise very quickly.
- Most spoilage bacteria is just that, spoilage bacteria. Pathogens, such as E-coli or Salmonella, are less prevalent and less likely to be introduced in the chopping of the meat.
- The concept of an 'infectious dose'. Everyday we are ingesting low levels of bacteria, including pathogens, with no ill effect. There is a certain level that is necessary to induce illness.
The long and short of it is that Steak Tartare must be made fresh and eaten fresh.
That is the traditional way to do it.
And it is quite safe.