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Cookbook Recipes Fail Food Safety

Patrick Boshell
June 13, 2017


Admit it.  As much as you love eating out, there is nothing quite like home cooking.  Even in our hyper age of connectivity, nothing beats that old family recipe that brings everyone together.

Believe it or not, the cookbook is more popular today than ever, and I bet everyone reading this right now has at least one somewhere in the kitchen.  From millennials to baby boomers, no matter what your tastes are there is a great cookbook out there with the perfect recipe for you.  By the way, if you are following that recipe on your smart phone or tablet, you need to keep your electronics out of the kitchen.  If you want to learn more about this cross contamination food safety issue, please check out this recent article.



When it comes to good old fashion cookbooks, it turns out that one essential ingredient is often missing in the recipes – food safety.  According to a new study, the majority of recipes found in popular cookbooks provide very little information about food safety and the important issue of cross contamination.  The study’s researchers noted that cookbooks tell people how to cook, but not really in a way that could help reduce the risk foodborne illness.


Cross-Contamination and Foodborne Illness


In the U.S., it is estimated that 3.5 million cases of foodborne illness annually are associated with the inadequate cooking of animal foods or cross-contamination from foods.  According to the study’s researchers, food-handling practices can be risk factors for foodborne illness.


As part of the study, more than 1,500 recipes from The New York Times best sellers were reviewed.  Specifically, researchers examined recipes for cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs and looked for content that would promote food safety best practice.  Food safety myths were also reviewed, such as washing raw chicken in the sink, which is not a good idea by the way.  Germs are easily spread to the sink and other surfaces such as the counter top.


Very few of the recipes included recommendations to avoid cross-contamination, which occurs when germs from one of the foods in the recipe are transferred to something else, according to the study.  For example, only 12 of the more than 1,500 recipes reviewed recommended that people should wash their hands after touching raw meats such as poultry. Additionally, less than 2% of the recipes recommended separate cutting boards, dishes, and utensils for raw meats.


The bottom line according to the researchers is that correct food safety guidance in cookbooks may increase the potential for reducing the risk of foodborne illness. The researchers concluded that “Popular cookbooks are an underutilized avenue for communicating safe food handling practices and currently cookbook authors are risk amplifiers.”


Protect Yourself from Foodborne Illness


The CDC says that anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food, and it recommends the following four simple food safety steps to help protect against foodborne illness.


  1. CLEAN – Wash your hands and food-prep surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water. Watch the USDA clean video here.


  1. SEPARATE - Don't cross-contaminate. Even after you have cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate. Watch the USDA video.


  1. COOK - Cook to theright temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F (63°C) for whole meats (allowing the meat to cool for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F (71 °C) for ground meats, and 165°F  (74 °C) for all poultry. Check out the USDA video.


  1. CHILL - Keep your refrigerator below 40°F (4 °C) and refrigerate foods promptly. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to 1 hour.) For more information on preventing food poisoning, check your steps atgov. and watch the USDA chill video.

 Learn more about the Hand Washing Technique




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