Food safety has become a concern for many people as the number of food recalls and contaminated foods found in supermarkets and restaurants seems to grow daily.
Detective Foodsafe® knows that when we cook in our own kitchen, we are still susceptible to foodborne illness preparing food for ourselves and our families.
Learning about how to properly store foods and prevent cross contamination when we prepare them is a mission of Detective Foodsafe. She wants to empower you to avoid becoming a victim of food poisoning.
We can learn even more when the recipes we use give us hints and necessary reminders about safe food handling.
Missing Food Safety Information
Researcher Ben Chapman, an Associate Professor at North Carolina State University, found that most cookbooks sold do not contain food safety information for the home cook to help consumers avoid risk while preparing meals.
He also found that the current cookbooks on the New York Times bestseller lists were devoid of food safety tips. He evaluated 29 bestselling cookbooks and 1,497 recipes from those books and found that:
- Only 8% mentioned the final temperature to which the dish should be cooked
- Of those, not all were the correct temperature to avoid foodborne illness
- 99.7% of the recipes gave “subjective indicators” to determine if a food was cooked thoroughly
- None of the indicators are proven reliable to prevent foodborne illness
- 44% of the recipes included cooking time, but no mention was made of cooking equipment/pan size/temperature when going into the oven, which impact cooking time and safety
- Many recipes stated “cook until done” or until meat was a particular color, which does not indicate safe internal temperature
Chapman feels all recipes should include the actual internal endpoint cooking temperature.
Another study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that TV cooking shows were missing the boat when it comes to teaching cooks food safety while they teach cooking techniques.
They viewed 10 Food Network programs (two to six episodes per show) for safe food handling, use of gloves, proper temperature control, and mentioning food safety practices.
They found that 70% of cooking programs presented techniques that were out of compliance with food safety standards. Food safety was mentioned only three times.
Researchers are concerned that TV and printed cookbooks are missing the opportunity to help consumers learn about food safety practices to keep them safe from illness.
Food Safety Instructions in the Recipe
Researchers at Tennessee State University found that consumers want – and will use, food safety information in their recipes.
When it was written into the recipe, 85% of cooks used a food thermometer to check internal temperature compared to 25% when it was not listed.
We all know we should wash our hands before food preparation but only 40-50% did compared to 70-80% when prompted by the recipe instructions.
To help us all learn how to practice food safety while we cook, the USDA, in partnership with the FDA and CDC, launched an online tool that automatically added critical food safety steps into your own recipes or those you’ve found online.
Unfortunately, this tool seems to be unavailable. It sounds like a great idea that home cooks could really use, especially now when the worry of foodborne illness is growing.
Have you found that a few reminders, such as ‘wash your hands before beginning food preparation’ or ‘check the temperature of the chicken breast at this point to be sure it has reached 165 degrees’ would be helpful for you?
Some cookbook authors, especially dietitians, are beginning to add these into their recipes. When looking for a new cookbook or searching for online recipes, this may be one more criteria that helps you decide which recipe fits your needs and desires best.
Who couldn’t use one more reminder when preparing a meal at the end of a hectic day?
Detective Foodsafe’s Tips for Safe Food Handling When Cooking
Here are a few reminders from Detective Foodsafe for you even if they aren’t included in your recipe (yet):
- Always wash your hands before you begin food preparation
- Separate raw and cooked foods, including the serving utensils, plates, and cutting boards you use
- Wash produce before cutting, even if you don’t plan on eating the skin
- Don’t wash poultry before preparing, as the splashing juices will spread more germs than you will destroy by washing
- Wash hands after handling raw meat, poultry and before ready to eat foods and sanitize preparation surfaces to prevent cross contamination
- Use a food thermometer to test internal temperature – don’t rely on color, juices, or smell of a food for doneness
- Store food at the proper temperature and keep it refrigerated until ready to use; don’t thaw frozen food on the counter
- Microwave leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees; refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours of serving (one hour if temperature is over 90 degrees, such as picnic or tailgate)
Food safety is in your hands – – and hopefully coming to a recipe near you soon!