Publishing papers by press release is a bad idea

Last week, researchers at Texas Tech gushed in a press release about the food safety errors on cooking shows broadcast by the Food Network.

“Researchers analyzed 49 shows airing over a two-week period and used 17 different coded categories: six positive and 11 negative. Positive categories included hand washing, cleaning equipment, washing fruits and vegetables, adequate refrigeration, and use of a thermometer. …

“The results weren’t exactly savory with 118 positive food safety measures and 460 poor food handling incidents. Among the most noticeable culprits were not washing fruits, vegetables and herbs properly and a lack of hand washing in general.”

I have an interest in such work. In 2004, my laboratory reported that, based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows, an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods. The abstract is available at

(Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.)

So I e-mailed one of the researchers and asked, hey, has this been published in a journal anywhere?

She didn’t answer my e-mail.

But Lubbock Online did, in a story today, which concluded the Tech study has yet to be published but is under review for publication in the academic food safety journal "Food Protection Trends."

That’s great. The more research on these areas the better. Sometimes there is a need to issue a press release about research as it is on-going, but in this case, why not wait until the journal article is published. Then us mere mortals can actually get the paper and review it for ourselves.