A new study has highlighted the fact that TV chefs are failing food safety tests with poor hygiene.
Two US universities worked together to put together the research, and found some fairly damning results.
TV Food Preparation
The researchers looked at more than 100 different cooking shows, which were hosted by the 24 most popular celebrity chefs in the US. These were the shows it was felt would be watched – and trusted – by the most people.
Several risky behaviours were noted during food preparation, which greatly alarmed the researchers. They noticed that a quarter of the chefs were seen to touch raw food and then lick their fingers, or vice versa, which can mean the spread of contamination and bacteria. One in five of them would also touch their hair, their dirty clothing, or dirty equipment before going ahead to touch their ingredients again.
The biggest sin that the researchers noted was failing to wash their hands. The TV chefs would also chop up raw meat, and then vegetables on the same chopping board – without any intention of cooking the veggies. This again can spread bacteria from the meat, resulting in food poisoning. In short, if you are looking for chef jobs, don’t follow the advice of those that you see on television!
“Washing your hands is not a one-time thing,” said food safety expert Edgar Chambers of Kansas State University. “We saw some chefs wash their hands in the beginning before preparing food, but they didn’t wash their hands during food preparation when they should have.”
While food shows are there mostly to entertain us, we do have to realise that some people will follow their instructions exactly – including when and how to clean up. This means that they have a responsibility to show the right hygiene practices, or at least to remind their audiences that things don’t always go as quickly as they do on TV.
“All celebrity chefs have to do is mention these things as they go along: ‘Remember to wash your hands’, ‘Don’t forget to change your cutting board’, or ‘I washed my hands here’ – which some chefs did do,” Chambers said. “They don’t have to show it on television but they should remind viewers that there are safety issues involved in food preparation.”
Many viewers do not notice when chefs fail to follow basic food hygiene practices, particularly those who are starting to watch the shows as they learn to cook. The study asks that celebrity chefs keep this in mind when putting together their broadcasts.
“Television shows that demonstrate cooking to a home audience are in a perfect position to demonstrate and discuss good food safety habits,” the study reads. “The idea of ‘good food’ should remain inseparable from safe food, and the knowledge of proper food safety behaviours is crucial to making both happen.”
Getting it Right
If you want to make sure that you get your hygiene habits right in the kitchen, it’s important to remember that contamination is serious. Don’t mix raw meat and other ingredients until they are ready to be cooked together, and clean down surfaces regularly. You should also remember to wash your hands after touching anything that could potentially be dirty.
When thinking about taking on a chef job, you should also try to get yourself into good habits. Don’t touch your hair, skin, or clothing during the day as this can be an unconscious habit that we cannot avoid. If you do make the mistake of touching any part of yourself, wash your hands right away to avoid contamination.
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