If you take a quick scan of your bookshelf, the chances are you’ll have at least one celebrity cookbook amongst your collection. Some great recipes no doubt but what is missing? A recent study carried out by the North Carolina State University, published in the British Food Journal, finds that cookbooks are lacking adequate advice on food safety awareness.
The study took a selection of recipes containing raw meat from 29 cookbooks and examined them for advice on cross contamination and accurate cooking temperatures. Of those recipes chosen, only 8% provided a safe cooking temperature and, unnervingly, just over 25% of temperatures given were inaccurate. As a general rule with the majority of recipes studied, the guidance given on establishing whether something was cooked properly or not was fairly unclear. Katrina Levine, one of the co-authors of the research, stated that, ‘the most common indicator was cooking time’. She went on to explain that this can vary enormously depending on type and efficiency of cooker, whether the meat is chilled or not before placing in the oven and other ambient factors, so it is not always an appropriate method for gauging whether food is sufficiently cooked or not.
Your favourite celebrity chef might have some novel culinary ideas for a different twist on a popular recipe or food combinations which they want to share with you but, hand in hand with that should go the responsibility to educate on basic food safety principles, including thoroughly researched, safe cooking times and advice on how to avoid cross contamination by adopting a few simple hygiene practices. It is improbable that the majority of the general public will have received food hygiene training unless working in an industry that requires it. Therefore, awareness of risk of cross contamination and ensuring correct temperatures for eliminating pathogens to prevent food borne illness is likely to be fairly low.
The study concluded that the lack of, and in some cases incorrect, direction concerning food safety practices in cookbooks could increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Currently, it is unclear how consumers translate the information provided in cookbooks and it was conceded that further research is necessary to study the consequences of user habits and actions when following a recipe. However, regardless of how consumers mimic their gastronomic guru, the study does appear to establish the need for cookbooks to include basic food safety advice and principles that will promote safe food practices in the home.