Campaign aims to improve home food safety (VIDEO)

Foodborne illness sources
The CDC studied 10 years of data to identify common sources of food borne illness.

While it’s always good to be wary of public education campaigns driven by commercial interests, a new effort by the food industry to communicate about preventing food borne illness by improving home food safety has a few worthy elements. The new “Mythbusters” campaign aims to increase safe food handling in homes, which are the source for about 9% of food-related sickness in the United States each year. Commercial or restaurant kitchens are the source for most food borne disease, accounting for about seven times more cases than private kitchens.

The skeptic in me questions why backers like Foster Farms, Cargill, and the trade associations representing manufacturers of most of the food items that wind up in grocery stores and commercial kitchens, want to shine the light on home kitchens more than safety improvements in industrial food processing. To be fair, the large companies do pay attention to food safety, and I am unlikely to ever be completely comfortable eating factory-farmed, processed products. If they are doing their part, then asking consumers to be careful with home food safety, too, probably makes sense.

Food safety myth buster #1
Industry-led group is trying to educate public about food safety “myths.”

Food safety is serious business. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,000 people die every year from consuming contaminated food or beverages, many thousands more are sickened.

Food prepared in home kitchens accounts for a lot of illness, but it’s a minor factor compared to restaurants or delis where many people can be exposed to contamination. Based on 10 years of data, the CDC estimates that nearly 7 out of every 10 cases of food borne illness are traced to restaurants, 1 out of every 10 to foods prepared in a private home, and the rest are attributed to caterers or institutional kitchens.

The project’s website has fact sheets, videos, and other resources to help families keep their home kitchens and the foods they eat safer. For example, a safe school lunch flyer reminds people to use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables and use insulated bags, freezer gel packs or a frozen juice box to help keep lunches safe after they go out the door.

Salmonella cases linked to pig roasts

Washington state health authorities safe trying to determine how more than 55 people were sickened with salmonella in recent weeks. Two were hospitalized. 

Preliminary investigation suggests whole pig roasts at private events may have been a common factor in the salmonella cases. 

Health officials recommend that pork should be cooked to at least 145 degrees before being served. Even when cooked, food can be contaminated if such things as utensils, cutting boards, or hands are used to handle raw meat and cooked meat without proper washing between each. 

Read more at::
Food Safety News

Spatchcock: It’s not just for chickens anymore

spatchcock turkey from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Brett Spangler, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Half the fun of cooking poultry using the “spatchcock” method is being able to say that funny word. But it’s also a truly awesome method to cook chickens, and, as Mark Bittman has advocated since 2002, can be used to cut turkey roasting time from several hours to less than one. That can transform Thanksgiving as we know it.

Spatchcocking is simply a technique in which a chicken or turkey is butterflied by removing the back bone, so it can lay flat on a grill or roasting pan. Eliminating the bird’s cavity eliminates the biggest challenge when roasting a turkey or chicken, because it enables the heat to be more carefully controlled and not wasted on the vacant space. (Stuffing a turkey reduces the variability, too, but extends cooking time and also creates some food safety issues if the temperature isn’t monitored carefully.)

Here are a couple of resources to learn about spatchcocking turkey and how to do it:

From the article comes this interesting graph from Google, showing the frequency of searches for the term “spatchcock” over time: