Non appétit: Don't eat the food prepared by TV chefs, warns food safety study

Research into cookery show presenters found they routinely fail to wash their hands and change chopping boards

Non appétit: Don't eat the food prepared by TV chefs, warns food safety study

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While their healthier recipes will be finding favour with those resolving to start the new year off in a more fitness-focused manner, celebrity chefs and TV cooks have been slapped on the wrist for failing to cook up good food safety habits, according to a new study.

Food safety experts at two US universities analysed the hygiene habits of the famous foodies, publishing their damning findings in the Journal of Public Health. Watching 100 different cooking shows, fronted by 24 of the most popular celebrity chefs on American TV, the researchers noted several risky food preparation behaviours.

Almost a quarter of the TV chefs were seen licking their fingers and touching raw foodstuffs, while one in five of them also touched their hair, dirty clothing, or unclean equipment before then touching their ingredients again, the study found.

But among the worst and most common food safety hazards, according to the researchers, was a lack of hand-washing and not changing chopping boards between raw meat and vegetables that would be served uncooked.

“Washing your hands is not a one-time thing,” said food safety expert Edgar Chambers of Kansas State University. “We saw some chefs wash their hands in the beginning before preparing food, but they didn’t wash their hands during food preparation when they should have.”

While acknowledging that TV cookery shows strive to entertain, they also play a role in educating viewers in learning good food preparation skills and behaviours; as well as tips on creating delicious dishes and helpful kitchen hints, Chambers said the cooks should include proper safety practices.

“All celebrity chefs have to do is mention these things as they go along: ‘Remember to wash your hands’, ‘Don’t forget to change your cutting board’, or ‘I washed my hands here’ – which some chefs did do,” Chambers said. “They don’t have to show it on television but they should remind viewers that there are safety issues involved in food preparation.”

The study’s authors didn’t single out any particular chef, but pointed to the food television industry as an example of somewhere where best practice is being ignored. While discerning viewers should be able to recognise when a chef skips basic food hygiene steps, many others do not notice.

“Television shows that demonstrate cooking to a home audience are in a perfect position to demonstrate and discuss good food safety habits,” the study reads. “The idea of ‘good food’ should remain inseparable from safe food, and the knowledge of proper food safety behaviours is crucial to making both happen.”

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