Video on cooking food safety has cross-contamination #fails

I hate to armchair quarterback videos especially because it’s easy to nitpick them and pretty tough to make them, but a video posted by the Vancouver Sun, below, as part of a new at home food safety campaign (RUHotEnuf?) struck me as a bit ironic (but maybe I’m getting that definition wrong). In the video, David Robertson, chef and owner of the Dirty Apron Kitchen School (ironically) focuses on temperature as risk factors when cooking chicken at home.

Robertson starts off by talking about ensuring a home fridge is at the right temperature (RUCoolEnuf?), but doesn’t tell the viewer what that is (4C or 41F) or how to check it.

Chef David talks about the importance of correct packaging to keep chicken juices from directly cross-contaminating foods in the fridge and as he does this he fumbles through unwrapping his shrink-wrapped chicken like my 2-year-old son opens up a present. From 30-33 seconds you get a good look at hand facilitated cross-contamination as his fingers hit the underside of the shrink wrap that was directly touching the chicken and then go straight to the pepper grinder. All while chef David is talking about the importance of not contaminating cutting boards. Awesome.

His tong use is a bit odd as well between 1:07 and 1:19 and then grabbing the same tongs again, hovering them over the chicken breast (he doesn’t go directly for the cross-contamination event this time). David misses the opportunity to talk about multiple tools – and using clean tongs for food that has hit the safe temps.

Handwashing at 1:33 is completed by drying on his multi-purpose kitchen towel. Lots of evidence that shows that proper drying is an important step, that the friction results in a 1- to 2-log reduction of the Salmonella or Campylobacter David is trying to remove from his hands — and all those pathogens are now hidden somewhere in that towel. Which is back on the counter, and then to the cupboard handle.

I’m not sure exactly what he’s talking about when it comes to removing the chicken from the heat to measure temps correctly — if someone has a reference for this please send it on. If the cook (in the commercial kitchen, or in the home) is using a digital, tip sensitive thermometer correctly, they are measuring the temp of the meat, not the pan.I do like the temps he discusses (aiming for 165F – or 74C if you are in Canada, like I believe British Columbia is), but are different from the Health Canada recommendation of 180F.

The steps to safe food aren’t all that simple, this video makes a case for risk reduction being complex, even for the home chef. The increased discussion and focus on food safety is great, and the producers are trying, but mistakes happen even when you’re attempting to demonstrate how to do it right.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.