Watch out, that cookbook might give you salmonella

Unsafe handling, chilling, cooking and cleaning procedures in the home contribute to many infections

Foodborne pathogens account for about four million illnesses in Canada annually, affecting one in eight Canadians.

Unsafe handling, chilling, cooking and cleaning/sanitation procedures in the home contribute to a significant proportion of these infections. In fact, in Canada since 2017, there have been several national outbreaks of salmonella infections linked to frozen raw breaded chicken products.

In many cases, because people can be led to believe that chicken nuggets are already cooked, they undercook them or microwave them — both of which can lead to the survival of salmonella, and thus human illness.

It is important to practise safe food behaviours to prevent you and your family from becoming sick. In fact, safe handling in domestic kitchens is critical in the prevention of diseases caused by foodborne pathogens.

One way you can receive food-safety education and guidance is through magazines, cooking shows, online recipes and cookbooks. This is why, as director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, my team conducted a study to examine the food safety information contained in a number of Canadian cookbooks.

From an original total of 30 cookbooks examined, 19 were included in the study, because the recipes included a variety of meats and seafoods, major contributors to foodborne disease.

Your burger is done at 71

Around 10 per cent of the recipes examined actually contained unsafe food preparation instructions — in the form of incorrect procedures for thawing and washing meat in the home kitchen.

Only about eight per cent of the recipes mentioned that a food thermometer should be used. Furthermore, most of the recipes (approximately 96 per cent) provided the incorrect temperature, or were lacking a minimum internal temperature, for safe cooking.

You should never use colour as an indicator of the readiness of meats. For example, when you are cooking ground beef, which has been the cause of a number of E. coli outbreaks, the meat can actually turn brown well before it reaches the recommended internal temperature of 71C.

We usually use the slogan, “Your burger is done at 71.”

Instructions for pork preparation were the most likely to include unsafe instructions. And fewer than one per cent of the recipes we looked at advised readers to wash their hands before starting meal preparation, or after touching raw foods.

How to safely handle food at home

These are six of the most important safety measures that cookbooks should explain:

  1. Wash hands before and after food preparation, especially when handling raw foods such as meat and fish.
  2. Use different plates and utensils for raw and cooked meats and fish.
  3. Check meats with a meat thermometer ensuring they reach an internal temperature of 71C for burgers, 74C for poultry parts and 82C for whole birds.
  4. Thaw foods in the fridge or in pots of cold water, not on the counter.
  5. Do not leave foods out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  6. Do not wash raw meats, as this procedure only spreads pathogens that would be eliminated with proper cooking.

Even one introductory page in every cookbook, containing these important food safety practices, would help.

Celebrity chefs need to clean up their act

From a risk communication perspective, I feel that Canadian cookbooks are not being used effectively to inform consumers about safe food handling and preparation techniques.

It is possible that authors of cookbooks leave out food safety information because they have had little training in the area. It is important in such cases for cookbook authors to reach out to food safety experts — so that the information in their books is useful and accurate.

Cooking shows could also do a better job in informing viewers about how to handle, cook and store foods properly. Celebrity chefs have a large influence on imparting food safety knowledge and yet a recent study of cooking shows found many exhibited behaviour that can lead to cross-contamination of foods — such as adding food with their hands, touching hair and licking fingers.

You have a very important role to play in the safety of the foods you consume. And the household kitchen is really the last line of defence before you actually eat a food!

Jeffrey M. Farber, Professor of Food Safety, University of Guelph , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

White Rock couple to donate blood 325th time, collectively

Anne Friendly will make her 175th donation, while her husband Kevin Klop will donate his 150th time

South Surrey mothers to launch CBD-infused water product

Three friends say benefits may include anxiety relief, pain management

4-year-old child injured in Surrey after falling out window

Child fell out of third-storey window, expected to fully recover

City of White Rock hosts official pier reopening

Event included ribbon-cutting, speeches, live music

Surrey school district to allow students to miss class for global climate strike

Students must be excused from school by parents; will be able to make up missed work without penalty

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

Over 200 Hotel Georgia hospitality workers join ‘open-ended strike’

Unionized workers at Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Harbourfront have also walked out

B.C. Lions hype-man marks 15 years of cheers

Crazy P cheers, chants, bangs his drum and spreads a message of love

Hiker rescued after spending night on Crown Mountain

North Shore Rescue spotted the woman by helicopter over Hanes Valley

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Vancouver Giants complete weekend sweep of Cougars

Back-to-back road trip victories for Langley-based team

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Most Read