Can you get food poisoning from TV? You might, if you mimic cooks on the tube. Food-safety researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph found that chefs on the Canadian version of Food Network constantly violate the most basic rules of food safety.
Their sloppiness would get a real restaurant fined. The study, “Spot the Mistake,” counts an average of seven food sins per half-hour show. In about 80% of the 60 episodes reviewed, chefs allow raw meat to contaminate vegetables and other raw food. Chefs also frequently take a taste of food from a spoon, then use the same spoon to serve the food.
Julia Child they aren’t. One chef’s knife doubled as a fly swatter. A cutting board was wiped with a wrapper from raw meat, then used to prep food. One chef squeezed a lemon with his teeth.
Most of the shows studied were on the Canadian network, but the bulk are American imports. Country of origin makes no difference among the programs, says study leader Lisa Mathiasen. “They’re all bad. There wasn’t one show that was worse than another,” although she and her professor, Doug Powell, are loath to point fingers.
Does the Food Network dispute the findings? Nope. Susan Stockton, vice president of culinary productions, says the programs have to be instructional and entertaining, so it’s impractical for a chef to preach about food safety, or apparently practice it. Powell’s bar isn’t high.
“I don’t want them to get didactic,” he says. “I just wish they’d wash their hands."