Cooking Shows Don’t Always Practice ‘Safe Cooking’
If you’re a home cook or someone who aspires to be an even better home chef, then you likely tune in to cooking shows on a regular basis. So if you see the chef hosts doing certain things, you may think “I can do that,” or even subconsciously start to emulate them in certain ways. A new study decided to see if unsafe techniques were being used by television chef hosts and if the viewers were vulnerable to adopting these dangerous habits.
Current data from the CDC suggests that 48 million cases of foodborne illness are reported annually in the U.S. These illnesses typically result from improper food handling in retail settings, but food-handling habits at home in the kitchen can also contribute to food-borne illnesses. With cooking shows high in popularity, researchers felt it was important to see if they are recommending safe food practices, and whether viewers are adopting unsafe food handling or cooking practices as a direct consequence of watching these shows.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst developed a study to assess food safety on TV shows and then to determine if these practices posed positive or negative lessons for the viewing public. They devised a nineteen question survey based on information taken from the Massachusetts Food Establishment Inspection Report. The questions were aimed to measure “hygienic food practices” which include: handling of utensils, use or non-use of gloves in certain cooking situations, techniques that limit contamination of a surface and also cross-contamination, cooking times and cooking temperatures. The researchers also measured the number of times specific safe food practices were mentioned on the shows. State food regulators and food safety experts participated in the research by viewing two to six episodes of ten popular cooking shows, watching a total of 39 show episodes, and then answering the questions.
The assessments found a number of troubling issues, but they also saw easy remedies for those issues. The most obvious solution was to suggest that all chefs and show participants should have basic food safety training lessons prior to filming. Internally, the show itself should follow strict food handling and cooking guidelines. Safety should even be incorporated into the scoring of dishes on competitive shows. Food safety “comments” could be incorporated into show scripts so they are mentioned during the course of the cooking segment, and little safety messages could also be flashed on screen during the segment.
So the next time you tune in to your favorite cooking show, make a mental note of any questionable preparation, cooking or food handling moments and be clear that just because they allow it on air, does not mean it should be a lesson in your cooking playbook!!