Bad advice from the UK Food Standards Agency

London’s Sunday Times ran a little puff piece — and with spring coming in the Northern Hemisphere there will be many more — that said food safety problems are primarily caused by eating food already past its shelf life, cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods (often involving poor hygiene) and eating food that was either not cooked or not stored properly.

Um, fresh fruits are vegetables are the leading vehicles of foodborne illness today.

Simple precautions include avoiding cooking food that’s about to go off and making sure you dry your hands properly after washing them – far more bacteria are spread from damp hands than dry hands.

The story cites the U.K. Food Standards Agency as a source for additional information. FSA tells folks,

"If you are checking a burger, sausage, or a portion of chicken or pork, cut into the middle and check there is no pink meat left. The meat should also be piping hot in the middle. If you’re checking a whole chicken or other bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between drumstick and thigh) with a clean knife or skewer until the juices run out. The juices shouldn’t have any pink or red in them."

This is bad advice. Color is a lousy indicator of doneness using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer is the only safe way to determine is food has reached a safe temperature.

And just what is piping hot?

"To test if food has been properly cooked, check that it is ‘piping hot’ all the way through. This means that it is hot enough for steam to come out. Cut open the food with a small knife so that you can check that it is piping hot in the middle. Generally, if food is piping hot in the middle, then it will be piping hot all the way through. … Some foods change colour when they are cooked. Looking at colour is especially useful for checking meat."

I wonder how much money was spent on consultants, and how many salaries sat around a conference table, to conclude that consumers weren’t bright enough to understand more accurate messages that would actually protect their well-being.

Stick it in.