Missing the boat on food safety messages in cookbooks: redux

From the food-safety-in-popular-culture files comes the paper that keeps on giving. Katrina Levine and I both chronicled our experiences around our British Food Journal paper exploring the food safety messages in cookbooks.

I’m still being asked by friends whether Gwyneth and I are on speaking terms (we would be, and I’d point her and her Goop towards science and data); the print version of the paper was published last week (abstract updated with page numbers and stuff here).

And Huffington Post Australia, always current, picked up the story yesterday.

Researchers analyzed 1,497 recipes from 29 cookbooks that appeared on New York Times bestseller lists in 2013 and 2014. Recipes were considered “correct” if they noted the proper endpoint temperature for a meat or animal product, per guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 92 percent of recipes didn’t note a temperature at all. Some recommended other ways of measuring doneness, like cooking meat until its juices run clear or until it turns a certain color. Since these methods aren’t reliable, the study considered those recipes “incorrect.”

Some cookbooks offered both good and bad cooking advice, the study’s senior author Benjamin Chapman told The Huffington Post. For example, one recipe in Paltrow’s cookbook It’s All Good noted a correct endpoint temperature, but also instructed readers to wash poultry before cooking it ― a practice that can spread bacteria around the kitchen and is warned against by the USDA and other experts.

Celebrity cookbook authors should include safe cooking temperatures in their recipes more often, he added.

“We have the ability to list a science-backed indicator,” Chapman said. “And we’re missing the boat.”

The boat cliche seemed appropriate at the time. Me and the boys had just finished watching Showtime’s, The Beach Boys: Making Pet Sounds, and I was thinking of Sloop John B.

 

True life: Someone cares about our research (even the tabloids)

Katrina Levine, extension associate and lead author of Evaluating Food Safety Risk Messages in Popular Cookbooks writes,

If you have been following the discourse epic battle between Ben Chapman and Gwenyth Paltrow, you may be wondering why a celebrity wants anything to do with us.  Me too.

It all started a few years ago with a conversation about recipes and cooking, and just how little was said in recipes about handling food safely. I mean, “cook until done”? What does that even mean?

So with Chapman’s support, I set off on a mission – to look through recipes in cookbooks (29 books and over 1700 recipes) for evidence of safe food handling guidance – giving a safe internal temperatures and ways to avoid cross-contamination.

It took about a year to collect the data (remember, 1700+ recipes…), and another couple to finish the article, Evaluating Food Safety Risk Messages in Popular Cookbooks, just published in the British Food Journal.

Then the press release went out, and something notable happened. Someone, somewhere, decided it was worth sharing. So it got shared – and talked about – a lot.

And there was an opportunity here: Talking with the media and posting about our study has never been about bashing celebrities, but about a chance to get our messages out there while we are being listened to.

I’ve done a few interviews and while the journalists may want to talk about Gwyneth, and who was the worst, I get to interject stuff into the pop culture conversation like, use a thermometer; follow safe endpoint temperatures; and, keep your hands and food surfaces clean and sanitized.

This is a researcher’s dream – to have your work noticed, discussed, and sometimes understood – by lots of people.

Putting in the work was worth it because what we did got noticed. And people are talking about it. Maybe they’ll be changing what they do because of it.

I am living the dream.

Our battle with Gwyneth: cookbook edition

The coverage of extension associate Katrina Levine’s research on cookbook food safety messages took an unexpected turn yesterday. Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘people’ weighed in.

By ‘people’ I think it’s the folks who published her cookbooks.

It started with a string of emails from some folks in the UK who saw the NC State press release about the research. After analyzing 1700+ recipes from cookbooks on the New York Times best seller list we found that safe endpoint temperatures only appeared in just over 8% of the instructions.

Not great.

A few journalists want to know who are the biggest offenders are (quick answer: it’s pretty well everyone we looked at – but not all the time).

One of the books included in our study was Paltrow’s It’s All Good. In a flurry of questions, and without being able to find all the recipes online, I sent one of the enquiring minds a recipe from another book, My Father’s Daughter as an example of what we were looking at, with this note:

“Here’s one from chef Paltrow that does not have a safe endpoint temperature included (165F or 74C).

Heat oven to 400°. Mix butter, garlic salt, paprika, pepper and salt in a bowl. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Insert fingers between skin and breast to separate the two. Rub seasoned butter over chicken and under skin. Tuck wings underneath bird and tie together with a piece of twine. Tie legs together with another piece of twine. Place chicken on its side in a heavy roasting pan and roast 25 minutes. Turn onto its other side and sprinkle with several tbsp water; roast 25 minutes more. Turn chicken on its back; roast 10 minutes more. Turn on its breast; roast until skin is crispy and chicken is golden brown, 10 minutes more. Remove from pan and let rest, breast side down, 15 minutes, before carving (remove skin).”

The Paltrow folks responded, through the journalist with this:

“The recipe for “Roast Chicken, Rotisserie Style” was published in MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER in April 2011. While it did not have an endpoint temperature included, the directions called for the chicken to be roasted at 400F for 70 minutes, which is ample time to cook a 3-4 pound chicken.

IT’S ALL GOOD, which was published in April 2013, does include endpoint temperatures. “Super-Crispy Roast Chicken” in IT’S ALL GOOD is baked for 1-1/2 hours at 425 degrees and the recipe advises “The chicken thigh should register 165 degrees F on a digital thermometer at the very least (I usually let it get to 180 Degrees F just to be completely sure it’s cooked all the way through the bone).”

So we went back to the data – and yep, we noted that the Super-Crispy Roast Chicken had a safe end point temperature. What they omitted was that the first instruction in the recipe was to wash the chicken; one of the steps that can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.

There were these other recipes from It’s All Good that don’t have the safe endpoint temperatures (and tell the reader to do non science-based things like touch it, look for clear juices or color to ensure doneness):

The row (I think that’s the correct colloquial British term) made the front page of the Daily Mail (above, exactly as shown).

As for this comment, ‘the directions called for the chicken to be roasted at 400F for 70 minutes, which is ample time to cook a 3-4 pound chicken.’

Maybe, show me the data. Lots of variables that can impact the final temperature – starting temperature of the chicken, thickness, oven heat calibration.

Isn’t it just easier to tell folks what the safe temperature is and tell them to stick it in?

Food and Wine points out exactly what we found. It’s not just Gwyneth.

But for once, let’s cut Paltrow some slack. Out of the whopping 29 best-selling cookbooks these experts analyzed, only nine percent of them included specific temperature information. She’s in good company. Meanwhile, only 89 — 89! — of the 1,497 recipes included in the study were deemed instructionally safe.

Honestly, none of this seems too egregious, and we almost wish Paltrow didn’t have to deal with the PR headache.

Oh well.

Nolan Ryan’s got nothing on Boog Powell

After my talk in Sydney yesterday, an inspector I was chatting with said, “You like the movie Caddyshack?” because I use a couple of pics from the movie.

He said it was his favorite.

I probably went into too much detail about why Caddyshack had personal significance, so I’ll attempt to be brief:

My first job was as a caddy at a private golf course in Brantford when I was nine years old – about 1972.

I’d bike out to the golf course, wait in the caddyshack until my name was called to haul ridiculously sized golf bags around the course for a couple of bucks.

But I got OK at it, got a couple of regulars – Ladies Day on Wed., Vern on Saturday and Sunday – and even traveled to a couple of tournaments with the club pro as his caddy.

Like Brian Doyle-Murray in the movie, we caddies had an overseer who was, um, weird. And liked the bottle.

One morning when he thought he was particularly astute, he called on the sound system to the caddyshack, and started giving everyone nicknames – sorta like George W. Bush did with reporters.

I became Boog Powell, after the famed Baltimore Orioles first baseman.

It stuck all through high school.

And just like in the movie, we caddies got to golf the fancy-pants private course on Monday mornings, as long as we started before 8 a.m.

But Nolan Ryan’s got nothing on Boog Powell

The Nolan Ryan Beef Cookbook” is scheduled for May 2014.

I look forward to the food safety tips.

But can it really beat Boog Powell’s 1986 tome, Boog Powell’s Mesquite Cookery.

I have a copy.

1954 cookbook: how to cook possum in America

We moved into a new place in Brisbane and the concrete and stucco of vertical intensification are less welcoming to the possum population than the timber of a traditional Queenslander (that’s what they call the houses).

But the possums will figure it out.

The other night about 2:30 a.m. I saw a little one run across the cedar boundary fence. Next day, I spotted it sleeping in the neighboring tree.

They’re coming.

The arrival of my backyard composter will only whet their desire and soon there will be possum crap over everything.

New Zealanders poison possums, Aussies treasure them. Americans eat them.

This recipe comes from 1954’s The American Family Cook Book.

Plunge animal into very hot but not boiling water for 2 minutes.

Pull out or scrape off hair without damaging skin. Slit belly from throat to hind legs. Remove entrails, feet, eyes and brains. Do not remove head or tail.

Wash thoroughly. If possible, freeze for 3 or 4 days. When ready to cook, wipe with a cold, damp cloth. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in roasting pan. Put in one cup of water and juice of one lemon.

Bake in hot oven (400 degrees) 15 minutes, turning once. Cover. Reduce heat and bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Bring your best, possums.

This is why other people should read your work: black people and salt edition

It’s a tiny misprint, but an Australian publisher has had to destroy a cookbook after one recipe called for "salt and freshly ground black people" to be added to the dish.

Penguin Group Australia pulped and reprinted about 7,000 copies of "Pasta Bible" after the typographical error was found in the ingredients for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday.

Bob Sessions, head of publishing, was quoted as saying,

"We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind, and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know. … When it comes to the proofreader, of course they should have picked it up, but proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable,” and that if anyone complained about the "silly mistake" they would be given the new version.

What a tool.

Cookbook recalled for bad food safety advice

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is doing something exceedingly proactive: it somehow got the publisher of The Happy Baby Cookbook to initiate a voluntary recall – not of a food but of the cookbook — because it contained bad food advice for pregnant women.

Or NZFSA is following what New South Wales, Australia, did a couple of months ago for a book that has been available since Aug. 2009. Regardless, it seems extraordinary that government agencies are calling people on their food safety bullshit.

A recall is underway for a cookbook containing recipes for pregnant women made with ingredients the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) considers could be harmful in pregnancy.

NZFSA principal public health advisor Donald Campbell says while it is vital for expectant mothers to eat a nutritious and varied diet, it is important that they know which of the foods they might normally eat may require extra care or be avoided altogether during pregnancy.

“Hummus for example is packed with protein, but because most hummus is made with tahini which has been associated with Salmonella outbreaks, we recommend that pregnant women don’t eat it.”

Other foods that are unsuitable for pregnant women to eat include soft cheeses, ready-to-eat foods from delicatessens or smorgasbords, raw fish and shellfish, cold cuts, deli salads, sushi and foods containing raw eggs.

I can’t wait for my copy of The Happy Baby Cookbook to arrive. Will any other regulatory bodies take action against food safety silliness that can harm people?

The Fat Duck Cookbook has no suggestions on how to avoid norovirus and barfing on expensive food

A review of Heston Blumenthal’s, The Fat Duck Cookbook, appeared in this morning’s edition of the U.K. Independent newspaper.

Among the highlights:

“Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook is presumably intended as a souvenir for those who have laid out £130 on the Tasting Menu at Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in Bray. At least it will give them a lasting memory of the meal. From several Fat Duck customers, I have heard complaints that they were far from replete after the experience. Though it is called a cookbook, scarcely anyone will ever cook from this volume. Many dishes call for specialist equipment and recondite ingredients. A dessert called Lime Grove requires liquid nitrogen, a Dewar flask, malic acid and high methoxyl confectioner’s pectin. Even the simpler dishes call for more time and application than anyone but an extreme culinary obsessive will want to spend. “

No mention in the review or the book about how to control the spread of norovirus in an upscale restaurant. Fortunately, the U.K. Health Protection Agency has published some suggestions.
 

A cookbook of recipes to move the poop: The Un-Constipated Gourmet

Baby Sorenne is coming up on seven months, and her poop is changing. As more solids are introduced into her diet, her poop has gone from runny brown to sticky to fully formed turds.

Yesterday, she started screaming as loud as she could for about 20 seconds. Sure enough, out popped a poop. That was about the fourth consecutive time it’s happened. Really, who hasn’t wanted to scream during a plugged up poop.

If you’re one of those people, Eat Me Daily reports today on The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets for a Movable Feast, a collection of recipes designed to make you poop by first-time author Danielle Svetcov.

Svetcov’s hope is that the book — which promises recipes you can serve to your "uncorked" friends without them realizing that they’re specially engineered for your own digestive needs — will deliver "superfoods with an agenda" so that the "potty-challenged" and those with "bathroom envy" will find themselves "called to duty."