Food safety is a matter of degrees
COMMENTARY | October 11, 2009
A Kansas State University professor whose Web site chronicles food-safety concerns writes about a New York Times reporter intentionally -- and unintentionally -- making the case that consumers can't be trusted to handle dangerous foods safely.
By Douglas Powell
Government bureaucrats, industry lobbyists and supposedly consumer-friendly dietician often say the same thing: Food safety is simple.
But food safety is not simple. And because you simply can’t count on people to properly handle and cook their food, the most important thing is reducing the number of pathogens entering a home or food service kitchen in the first place.
Consider how the U.K. Food Standards Agency published the findings of a new survey
Oct. 6 revealing that 65 per cent of poultry on sale at retail was found to carry the food poisoning bug, Campylobacter.
Not to worry, said Andrew Wadge, Director of Food Safety at the U.K. Food Standards Agency. “Taking simple measures in the home can reduce the risk of food poisoning. If food is prepared, handled, and cooked properly, avoiding cross-contamination with other food, then food bugs will not have a chance to spread and cause harm.”
But it’s just not that simple – a case made by N.Y. Times journo Michael Moss
in his Sunday front-page expose on hamburger safety, and particularly in his preparing-hamburger video
accompanying the feature. Cross-contamination is rampant and exceedingly difficult to control. As Moss wrote: "[E]ating ground beef is still a gamble."
Of course it didn't help that Moss totally failed to use a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer to ensure 160F of hamburger deliciousness. And that was a mistake. Cooking potentially dangerous foods to the proper temperature – not just a guesstimate – is a key ingredient in avoiding foodborne illness.