Saturday, October 10, 2009

Preventing Cross-Contamination, A Herculean Feat

The New York Times asked:
"Can consumers prevent cross-contamination by simply following directions on a package of ground beef?"
They conducted this experiment:

Their answer: No.
Consumers cannot prevent cross-contamination by following directions on a package of ground beef.

Those instructions ...

Safe handling Instructions:
  • Thaw in refrigerator or microwave.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.
  • Wash working surfaces, including cutting boards, utensils and hands after touching raw meat or poultry.
... appear to be inadequate. To up the ante even more, the FDA says:
"Unlike other food-borne pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 has no margin for error. It takes only a microscopic amount to cause serious illness or even death."
- FDA Consumer Magazine, September-October 1998
Another way of saying that, "100,000 fit on the head of a pin; only 10 needed to kill".

This was a tasty morsel in the above video: E. coli left on surfaces "double in number every 45 minutes."

If it's true, as the meat industry says, that the reason consumers get sick and in some cases lose their lives, is because of their (consumers) own negligence, what additional precautions do they suggest consumers take? How are we to eradicate every last invisible microscopic E. coli 0157:H7 that is increasingly finding its way into our food?
Thanks to Bill Marler and BL for the video. By the way, Bill is going to be a guest on Larry King Live on Monday. He'll be talking about ... you guessed it, food safety. Tell them (again) to stop blaming the consumer, Bill.


Anonymous said...

I tend to use lots of paper towels and frequently nuke sponges, and even thought about cleaning up with food grade H2O2 and vinegar. Despite all these precautions, I'm guessing I'd still miss killing a few. Addressing the root cause is the sensible course of action.

This is an oldie but goodie-


Bix said...

Nuking sponges is a great idea.

I agree with your sensible course of action.

virginia said...

The linked article...great summary.

I wash my dish sponges in the washing machine, with bleach. Hydrogen peroxide works well on wood spoons, and I bleach the silicone section of my spatulas, which are removable.

I love the commercial showing a woman carefully wiping her counters and fridge door...with a raw chicken thigh.