Food safety is not simple; and please, stop yelling

When people write using exclamation marks, especially in an e-mail or web-based postings, they seem to be yelling,

At the reader.

At me.

The U.K. Institute of Food Science & Technology issued an update yesterday on avoiding cross-contamination in the home. Why did the group specifically target the home and not include food service and retail? No idea.

I won’t bicker with the advice — although in some cases it seems excessive and culled from brochures rather than actual observation. For example, under handwashing, the report says,

"Wash hands, including finger-tips, thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly before you start preparing food. Do this repeatedly during food preparation – after every interruption and always if you have had to change the baby’s nappy or have been to the toilet; or after combing or touching your hair, nose, mouth or ears; or after eating, smoking, coughing or blowing nose; or after handling waste food or refuse; or after handling dirty cloths, crockery etc; or after shaking hands; or after touching shoes, the floor or other dirty surfaces. After preparing raw foods such as fish, meat, or poultry, wash your hands again before you start handling other foods. Rings can harbour germs – remove them before preparing food!

Twenty seconds of handwashing — which is itself excessive — is further excessive after simply scratching (not picking) my nose. I’m sure that will spark some hate mail. We were talking about that yesterday during my presentation at the Alabama Food Safety and Defense Conference in Montgomery, AL, yesterday.

But look at that exclamation mark. Gives it the ring of a fascist line-dancing instructor barking out orders.

The document concludes by stating,

If you suspect cooked, or ready-to-eat food might be contaminated, don’t serve it or eat it!


Food-poisoning is preventable – avoiding cross-contamination is simple and important!

Food safety is not simple. And save the exclamation marks for the truly exclamatory.