Celebrity Chefs Not Sanitary | Natural Health Blog

Date: 12/28/2016    Written by: Beth Levine

Don’t Follow the Lead of Celebrity Chefs!

Celebrity Chefs Not Sanitary | Natural Health Blog

Judging by their popularity, a lot of us like to watch cooking shows on TV. It can be fun to “Bam” along with Emeril, wait for Gordon Ramsay’s latest outburst, or find out what Jamie Oliver is up to. And in addition to their entertainment value, these shows can be a great source of new and interesting recipes. Except that if you mimic their style in the kitchen too closely, you may be setting yourself up for some serious health problems. New research suggests that some of the actions of these chefs might be nothing short of unsanitary.

The study, which took place at Kansas State University in Manhattan, found that most celebrity chefs on television employ poor food safety practices in front of the camera.1 The determinations were based on an analysis of 100 cooking show episodes that were hosted by 24 different celebrity chefs.

The investigators viewed each one and graded them by the chef’s adherence to proper food safety techniques as outlined in the Fight Bac! consumer food education program sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This campaign focuses on raising awareness of the need to clean hands and food preparation surfaces, separate raw meat and fish from other foods, cook foods to the correct internal temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly to lower the risk of foodborne illness.

As they analyzed each show, the researchers discovered some seriously unsanitary practices. The most common transgressions included a failure to wash their hands after handling uncooked meat (88 percent), adding food to a dish using their hands (79 percent), and not checking whether meat was fully done with a meat thermometer (75 percent). (Although, let’s be fair here. Good cooks can tell the internal temperature of meat simply by touching it.)2 Somewhat less common—although in some cases more disturbing—issues were eating while cooking (50 percent), using the same cutting board for preparing raw meats and vegetables that were not being cooked (25 percent), and touching their hair then putting their hands right back into the food (21 percent). And 21 percent actually licked their fingers during food preparation!

Of course, it’s certainly likely that some of these neglected food safety practices are taking place (or would take place if the food was actually being cooked for consumption) but simply not shown to viewers. One would hope that every chef does some hand washing at multiple points during their food preparation process. But when a producer only has 22 minutes of air time, they are not going to waste a precious portion of that showing something as mundane as the chef scrubbing up at a sink or poking a thermometer into a side of beef and waiting for the temperature to register.

In other words, we probably won’t see many improvements in safe food handling behaviors on television any time soon. This doesn’t mean that we should stop watching these shows, obviously. It just means we can adopt their recipes, cooking tips, and flare in the kitchen, but not follow along blindly without stopping to put food safety practices into use throughout our cooking, even if we don’t see our favorite chefs doing the same.

So make sure you wash your hands regularly as you cook, especially any time you touch something that might possibly be unclean or handle any raw meat. Keep uncooked meat, fish, and eggs separate from other items and use a different set of cutting boards and utensils for their preparation. Look up the temperature at which a specific food is fully cooked and use a thermometer to ensure you reach that temperature. And clear the table as soon as everyone is done eating in order to get any leftovers into the refrigerator right away.

All of this should go a long way toward preventing foodborne illnesses from striking. The germs lurking in food—including salmonella, E. coli, and listeria—can be quite harmful, causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that may last for days. And they can be downright dangerous to small children, the elderly, and those with immune system problems. Plus, they’re more common than you probably realize, with an estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses among Americans every year, according to the USDA. So don’t take any chances. You may love to emulate the way a certain celebrity chef creates dishes, but don’t try to emulate their food safety habits.

  • 1. Maughan, Curtis; et al. "Food safety behaviors observed in celebrity chefs across a variety of programs." Journal of Public Health. 10 April 2016. Accessed 18 December 2016. http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/04/18/pubmed.fdw026.
  • 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8YQX-QgbXc
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Comments

  •  
    Submitted by Michael Ponzani on
    January 12, 2017 - 11:15am
    Youngstown , Ohio

    Mr. Barron:

    These celebrity chefe are just going to have to do shows detailing how they handle the food. MHZ Networks has a Healthy kitchen which features exotic dishes from several countries. I like the way their spice rack/condiment setup works. They have a shelf that runs all the way around the kitchen so they can grab whatever really fast. They also use racks and pans to drain oil. a neat touch

    Sincerely,

    Michael Ponzani

  •  
    Submitted by Julie on
    February 15, 2017 - 1:46pm
    Traverse city , Michigan

    I think you mean "flair" ...not "flare".
    If they were "eating during cooking" were they tasting the food? Did they use a dirty utensil? If not, why is that unhealthy? I don't know a decent home cook or chef who wouldn't taste their food. Other than the big no-no of cross contamination this seems a little over the top to me.

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    February 16, 2017 - 2:44pm

    The author is really just reporting on a study which found:  "The most common transgressions included a failure to wash their hands after handling uncooked meat (88 percent), adding food to a dish using their hands (79 percent), and not checking whether meat was fully done with a meat thermometer (75 percent)."  I think most people will wash their hands after handling raw meat, even at home.  Then they use those same contaminated hands to handle the dish?  

  •  
    Submitted by Liz on
    February 19, 2017 - 11:22pm
    Dubai ,

    I agree with what the studies have found, as I have seen the shows AND have also seen personally during cooking,
    Chefs licking their fingers whils preparing our table's food!
    I found that disgusting! They were cooking through a display window for entertainment purposes but seemed oblivious to their bad habits being now in full view of their
    guests! We saw them touching our desert with bare hands, then licking their fingers and again touching our food! I was
    Appalled needless to say...
    thanks for the article! It really confirmed my suspicions that
    eating in restaurants carries risks, and it may not be just a
    coincidence that I get the flu almost always after having
    eaten out. Food for thought

  •  
    Submitted by Wendy on
    February 20, 2017 - 3:20pm

    You watch Gordon Ramsey and he's always saying "Taste, taste, taste!"

    Remember, a lot of these "safe" handling rules have been established by organizations with no charge to make them edible or healthy. These are the same folks who have driven out naturally-fermented foods and most varieties of home canning, replacing them with heavily-proccessed, commercial goods.

    You know why the theater I worked at sold bottled water and didn't give out tap water? If you said,"profit," you'd be wrong. Insurance covers people getting sick on bottled water (it's the bottler's fault); it doesn't cover municipal water.

    Remember, nutritionally DEAD food is SAFE food, as far as they're concerned!

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    February 20, 2017 - 7:41pm

    Check out some of the links at the bottom of this article.  One states, "Government statistics cite 76 million cases of food-borne illness annually, causing 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths."  Perhaps it is smart to wash your hands after handling raw meat.

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