Is there too much (food safety) filth on TV?

So asks Laura Day in the U.K. Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog in yet another take on the food safety silliness on many TV cooking shows.

Over recent weeks, MasterChef has been pushing contestants through their "toughest challenge yet" (again), which seems to have led to competition-induced amnesia when it comes to basic standards.

"Former Miss Swansea" Alice has been sporting a shock of bright red nail polish before she rustles up the goods. She’s taken some flak from viewers online for kneading dough with her chipped nails, with suspicions that some of the polish made it into her miniature lasagnes.

Compulsive hair grabber Polly has attracted ire for her flyaway strands (she should take a cue from bandana-wearing Jackie), and then there are the men, arguably the clammier end of the spectrum, who persist in adding many beads of sweat to their pan-fried cuisines. Not to mention Tom, who consistently creates an epic mess, and this week drew quite the dressing down from John who offered a disparaging shake of the head towards the floured floor at his feet.

This is the kind of behaviour we would more commonly associate with the string of cooks on Come Dine With Me, whose contestants are often to be found scraping crème brûlée off the lino and leaving sushi unguarded to be snacked on by their cat. But it’s not just the amateurs, and it’s not just recently.

Pudding-fiend and glamour puss Nigella, all boobs and spoon-licking, has always had her hair perfectly coiffed. Sure, her luscious locks look pretty good flowing all over her shoulders (and who wouldn’t want a head of hair like that?), I just wouldn’t want to admire it in my plate of brownies.

We covered this ground years ago, and while I’d like to redo the study, Food Network ratings have recently flattened, so maybe people are doing less watching and more cooking Thanks to Bobby Krishna in Dubai for sending along the story.

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.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

Food porn excess: chefs court farmers for the best ingredients, nothing about food safety

Chef Jonathan Benno visited a farm recently, a crucial stop in his yearlong quest to open a $20-million restaurant at Lincoln Center in September.

In a standard food porn piece, The New York Times reports this morning that once, farmers begged top chefs to give their produce a whirl. But with carrots, corn and tomatoes being accorded the fanatical attention once reserved for foie gras and truffles, chefs now come knocking.

Mr. Benno, 40, said,

“It’s not enough now to pick up the phone and say to a distributor: ‘What have you got? O.K., give me a case.’ Now you want to see. You want to go there. They get to know us, and they see the possibilities for us. And for them.”

Michael White, the chef and an owner of Marea, along with Alto and Convivio, all in Manhattan, said, “Our customers travel to food and wine festivals and food devotees are more and more aware of the sourcing of products.” At the table, they can even surf the Web on their iPhones to check out the provenance of the steak, the chicken and the chicory.

Benno was further quoted as saying,

“This is not about currying favor, it is about developing a relationship. In this business, it’s about the handshake — looking them in the eye.”

Look your farmer in the eye and ask what water he or she irrigated with as the crops were withering and about to die (that was my farmer, left, 10 years ago, and he engaged in frank food safety discussions). Ask about the microbial tests done on water and soil. Ask about the hand sanitation for workers in the field and in the packing shed. Trust, but verify.

Less food porn, more food safety.

Naughty Nigella — food and sex

My parents, hoping to escape the Canadian cold, are arriving in Manhattan (Kansas) this evening.

It was -5 F this morning.

They may be disappointed.

But the sun is shining, things are warming, and by the time they hit southern Texas next week there are supposed to be highs in the 70s.

My father was the inspiration for our 2004 cooking show paper which documented the food safety failures of the high-profile chefs on The Food Network, including Nigella Lawson.

Marieke Hardy of Melbourne, Australia’s The Age newspaper wrote a column yesterday that took aim at Nigella, including,

"We like food, certainly. Some of us are also partial to boobies, and innuendo, and ladies with big. round bottoms, but even then Nigella seems to make selected members of the wymmyn’s network slightly suspicious.

Perhaps it’s the chocolatey vowels and habit of rolling herself all over the preparation space in a fashion that would be considered deeply unhygienic by most food and safety officers."

How about sexy and safe food?