Following the lead of famed television chefs may not be the best method of learning proper kitchen techniques. As HeathDay News reports, research from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior recently discovered that it is all too common for television chefs to cut corners and make potentially dangerous errors in food handling.
Authors Nancy L. Cohen and Rita Brennan1 explain that approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning occur in the US each year. A 2011 survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation indicated that 73% of consumers rely on media sources for food safety information with 22% of those individuals relying directly on television cooking programs. Since the production of cooking programs is on the rise, the authors wanted to better understand how these programs may be influencing viewers for better or worse.
The team gathered footage made up of approximately 2-6 episodes from 10, 30-60 min cooking shows totaling 39 episodes in all. They incorporated several of the top television cooking shows, chef competitions and celebrity shows that used potentially hazardous foods in recipes.
Next, the researchers developed a 19-question survey, adapted from the Massachusetts Food Establishment Inspection Report. The survey included questions regarding expected practices in a television cooking show. These practices included: nine items addressing hygienic food practices, three covering the use of utensils and gloves, five addressing protection from contamination, one about time and temperature control, and one item asking whether food safety practices were mentioned during the course of the show. They applied the survey to five raters representing state regulators and food safety educators.
After scoring the survey, the team found that ≥70% of episodes did not comply with proper health standards, such as using clean clothing (85%), hair restraints (88%) handling raw food (91%), and washing hands (93%). In over 90% of episodes, chefs made errors in preventing contamination through wiping cloths and washing produce, while only 13% of episodes mentioned food safety practices. Behaviors such as using clean utensils (78%) and preventing contamination during preparation (62%) were in compliance with food preparation standards. Nevertheless, the team noted the majority of observed behaviors in television shows had a much lower percentage of conformance with recommended practices than those seen in restaurant employees and consumers in general. Based on these results, the researchers call for cooking shows to feature a greater emphasis on food safety practices. By properly educating viewers, these programs, which sometimes reach millions of consumers at a time, have a great potential to help reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses.
1. Cohen, N.L., & Olson, R.B. (2016) “Compliance With Recommended Food Safety Practices in Television Cooking Shows.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 48(10) November–December 2016, (pp. 730–734)