> Are Televised Cooking Shows Promoting Poor Food Safety? - The Food Safety Company Are Televised Cooking Shows Promoting Poor Food Safety? - The Food Safety Company
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    Monday, 14 November 2016

    Are Televised Cooking Shows Promoting Poor Food Safety?

    For the home cook, the wide variety of food-related programming broadcast over our television screens on a daily basis can be a great resource. These programmes provide ideas and inspiration, as well as guiding us through the process of creating some of our favourite meals at home. However, with so many eagle-eyed viewers watching their every move and counting on them for viable advice and instruction, the hosts of these shows must take care to ensure that they are not in any way promoting potentially dangerous practices. It is in this regard that many of them may have fallen short.

    This is according to a new study conducted by a research team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which looked at 10 of the most popular cooking programmes in an effort to determine whether they provide positive or negative models for viewers.

    The need to promote proper food safety and hygiene practices both in and out of the home is highly apparent; the United States alone sees approximately 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually, resulting in around 3,000 deaths. Furthermore, according to a 2011 survey, only 33% of consumers state that they are trusting of government-issued food safety information, whereas over half of those asked would happily trust the same information if given by the media. For this exact reason, it is vital that the aforementioned media gets their facts straight and passes on the correct information to viewers.

    Unfortunately, the study actually found that many of them often fail in this regard.

    In order to assess how well these cooking shows performed in regards to food safety, the research team created a 19-question survey, adapted from the Massachusetts Food Establishment Inspection report. The team then watched two to six episodes of each of the 10 programmes to be analysed, for a total of 39 episodes watched. The programmes were judged on hygienic food practices, use of utensils and gloves, protection from contamination, and time and temperature control.

    Commenting on the results of the study, lead author Nancy L. Cohen stated:

    "The majority of practices rated were out of compliance or conformance with recommendations in at least 70% of episodes and food safety practices were mentioned in only three episodes,"

    "Only four practices were observed to be in compliance or conformance with recommendations in more than 50% of the episodes. For most behaviours observed, the percentage of shows in conformance with recommended practices was much lower than that seen in restaurant employees and consumers in general."

    That’s a pretty damning assessment, to say the least. However, rather than simply berating the shows in question for their seemingly poor standards, the researchers are instead looking at ways in which they could be improved. Suggested improvements include mandatory food safety training for chefs and contestants, modification of the environment to better support safe food handling, using food safety as a judging criteria on competitive programming, and incorporating food safety into the script of the show itself.

    "There are many opportunities on cooking shows to educate the public regarding safe food handling practices and help reduce the incidence of foodborne illness," noted Cohen.

    "Similarly, nutrition and food safety educators could work with the media to produce shows that demonstrate positive food safety behaviours and educate consumers about food safety practices as they adopt recipes."

    Sam Bonson

    Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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