Follow the bug, collect the evidence: washing poultry not worth it

The food safety family’s curmudgeonly uncle, Pete Snyder (who really isn’t) would be happy that the don’t-wash-poultry crowd is gaining some traction.

Medical Daily writes that everyone should stop rinsing raw chicken under the faucet. Rather than reducing foodborne bacteria, rinsing poultry spreads pathogens to other surfaces in your kitchen via Dan Aykroyd Plays Julia Childwater splatter, exacerbating contamination rather than preventing it. Now, a new campaign urges the public to drop the habit, as it increases the risk of serious foodborne illnesses like those caused by Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria. 

“There’s no reason, from a scientific point of view, to think you’re making it any safer, and in fact, you’re making it less safe,” said researcher Jennifer Quinlan, speaking to NPR. Quinlan is a food safety researcher at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and a spokesperson for “Don’t Wash Your Chicken” –– a university-backed public health campaign educating informing home cooks with video simulations and “photonovellas.”

“You should assume that if you have chicken, you have either Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria on it, if not both,” said Quinlan. “If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself.”

Concomitant focus-group studies funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicate that 90 per cent of the population washes their poultry before cooking it. After all, washing usually makes things both cleaner and safer. 

If you, like the majority of Americans, have been washing your chicken until now, campaign officials urge you to peruse the new reports, as well as the educational photonovellas. 

In addition, their “Germ-Vision” animation helps visualize the disconcerting spread of pathogens in your kitchen. 

Lowering loads: Campylobacter limits in chicken meat chain would reduce illness

A critical limit of 1,000 Campylobacter bacteria per gram of chicken would reduce the number of human disease cases by two-thirds, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in the Netherlands.

The Poultry Site reports that Campylobacter illness largely happens via cross-contamination in the kitchen from chicken meat to product that are consumed raw, like salads, and to a lesser extent undercooked meat. Dan Aykroyd Plays Julia ChildResearch by RIVM has shown that a large point of these illnesses can be prevented if the number of bacteria on chicken meat after industrial production is reduced.

Recently, there has been increased attention for hygiene in the farm to fork production check including slaughterhouses. In this context, the Dutch government intends to limit the level of Campylobacter bacteria on chicken meat, a so-called ‘process hygiene’ criterion. If higher levels are repeatedly found, the slaughterhouse needs to improved processing hygiene RIVM has evaluated the impact of different (more or less stringent) criteria, both on public health and on the costs for the poultry industry.

A critical limit of 1,000 Campylobacter bacteria per gram would reduce the number of human disease cases by two-thirds. The costs to the poultry industry to meet this criterion (estimated at €2 million per year) are considerably lower than the averted costs of illness (approximately €9 million per year).

Authors of the report are A.N. Swart, M.J.J. Mangen and A.H. Havelaar.

Sweet Julia Child O’ Mine; mash-up honors America’s first top chef; SCTV, SNL did it better

Guns ‘N Roses was a terrible band.

Misogynistic lyrics, riffs from a corporate boardroom, and really, really boring.

But PBS somehow thinks GNR is appropriate way to honor the matron of French cooking in the U.S., Julia Child, who would have turned 100-years-old on August 15.

Michael Pollan — You’re no Julia Child

This will be brief because I have to cook dinner (another week in Venice, Florida, and supper will be permanently moved to 3:30 pm).

With the upcoming release of Julia and Julie, food pornographers everywhere are reminiscing about their love of Julia Child, widely credited with bringing French cooking to mainstream America.

Michael Pollan takes 8,272 words in tomorrow’s N.Y. Times magazine to say The Food Network appeals to eaters not cooks, that people wouldn’t be so fat if they had to make food with basic ingredients at home, and he’s nostalgic for his mother’s cooking.

Salon magazine has already driven a few trucks through the rather gaping holes in Pollan’s arguments and cherry-picked supporting evidence. About word 745, I recognized Pollan’s hypocrisy and wondered why I was reading this trash when I could be cooking?

And Dan Ackroyd at least deserves a cameo in the new movie for best Julia Child impersonation (although John Candy’s Julia on Second City TV, duking it out with Mr. Rogers in a boxing match during a satirical Battle of the PBS stars is a close second).

When broccoli doesn’t make you barf

My husband just sent me a link with a recipe for some amazing broccoli – The Best Broccoli of Your Life, in fact.

It was a blog post by The Amateur Gourmet, lauding the cooking style of The Barefoot Contessa.

The Barefoot Contessa loves roasting. Specifically, she loves roasting vegetables at a high temperature until they caramelize.

As the recipe for roasted broccoli is relayed, The Amateur Gourmet reveals a secret that the Contessa doesn’t share:

[D]ry them THOROUGHLY. That is, if you wash them.

I saw an episode of Julia Child cooking with Jacques Pepin once when Pepin revealed he doesn’t wash a chicken before putting it in a hot oven: "The heat kills all the germs," he said in his French accent. "If bacteria could survive that oven, it deserves to kill me."

By that logic, then, I didn’t wash my broccoli; I wanted it to get crispy and brown. If you’re nervous, though, just wash and dry it obsessively.

USDA agrees that, "It is not necessary to wash raw chicken. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking." Though the temperature is measured in the food – not the oven.

You can be sure chicken is safe if a tip-sensitive digital thermometer reads 165 F in the thickest part of it.

Not much is said about temps for vegetables, though. I vaguely remember the test for ServSafe certification a few years ago suggesting they reach 135 F, but that’s not even out of the 40 F – 140 F “danger zone” and I have no science to back it.

I have seen the science on the internalization of pathogens in some produce and in such cases washing will not make vegetables any safer to eat.

So I might just cook it unwashed. Or I might be “obsessive.” Either way, I’ve got what I need to make an informed decision; it’ll be my choice and not my ignorance that leaves the possibility for pathogens in.