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Food Safety: Not As Seen On TV

Celebrity Chefs Forget Food Safety on Cooking Shows 
Wish your recipes would turn out exactly like those on TV? Maybe not exactly—a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior finds television chefs rarely meet basic food safety standards on popular cooking shows. 

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst asked five food safety experts to watch 39 episodes from 10 television cooking shows (sounds like a fun job!) and rate how well the chef practiced food safety standards. They looked for things like cross-contamination prevention, hand-washing, temperature control, and whether or not food safety was even mentioned. 

The results: Don’t believe everything you see on TV. Most of the food safety practices that raters were checking for were overlooked in more than 70% of episodes. Only 13% of shows even mentioned food safety. Hand-washing was foregone in 93% of episodes and 91% of episodes showed mishandling of raw food. Just 9% of shows demonstrated proper washing of fresh fruits and vegetables and 7% showed proper food temperatures.  

In the U.S. alone, about 48 million cases of foodborne illness are reported each year. Half of the nation’s population reports watching cooking shows, meaning television chefs are missing a huge opportunity to model and teach good food safety practices. Researchers recommend food safety experts work with the media to integrate these skills into popular shows. “Proper food safety is the single most important skill a chef can practice in his or her kitchen,” explains Dole’s Chef Mark Allison. “Safety shouldn’t disappear with the magic of TV.” 

To help prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illness in your own kitchen, follow these ten tips: 

  1. Scrub hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. 
  2. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables and dry with a clean towel before eating. 
  3. Use separate cutting boards for produce and fish/poultry. Sanitize after use. 
  4. Defrost food in the refrigerator, in the microwave or under running water—never on the counter. 
  5. Keep the refrigerator temperature at 40° Fahrenheit or below. 
  6. Keep hot foods at 140° Fahrenheit or above. Cool to 40° Fahrenheit within two hours of serving. 
  7. Use a kitchen thermometer to check internal temperature of food before eating (for poultry it’s a minimum of 165° Fahrenheit). 
  8. Store raw animal foods such as fish on the bottom of the refrigerator. 
  9. Sanitize counters and sinks after cooking. 
  10. Regularly clean the refrigerator from the inside out—a thorough cleaning four times a year is enough. 

Get in the kitchen and practice your food safety skills by making Dole's Sweet and Spicy Plantain Soup.

Published March 2017

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