Food Safety Research Well-Done
March 16, 2011 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Combining two of Metafilter's favorite topics, Scientific American has an edited excerpt from Modernist Cuisine on the arbitrary and political nature of food safety guidelines. Yes, AskMetafilter, you can (probably) eat that!
posted by rhiannonstone (67 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I dunno. If you're wealthy enough to buy Modernist Cuisine, you could probably purchase botulism from your friendly local cosmetic surgeon.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:27 PM on March 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


That was interesting. My own personal rules for food safety are totally nonsensical. I refuse to eat leftovers that have been in the fridge one day past what I consider to be their prime, and yet I happily eat steak tartar and will eat from any (and I mean any street food cart anywhere in the world.

Logic has no part in this whatsoever, never mind science.
posted by Forktine at 8:27 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


YESSSS

Exactly what all my friends and loved ones have been fearing: a citeable print source for me saying, "You're gonna trust the fuckin GOVERNMENT? SMH, bro" as I stuff raw hamburger into my mouth.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:28 PM on March 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't know about you, but chicken cooked below 160F is just gross.
As is steak above 125.
posted by Gilbert at 8:31 PM on March 16, 2011


What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Except for the stuff that makes you weaker. That stuff sucks.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 PM on March 16, 2011 [31 favorites]


Honestly, I will eat anything that smells mostly okay. Warm or cold. I may or may not be a garbage can though.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:51 PM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Look, I wasn't going to say this, but if you ask me "should I eat it?" and you take away the HACCP guidelines that I fall back to, I'm going to have to be honest and tell you that you shouldn't eat it because your cooking stinks.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:58 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


leftovers are perfectly fine days, even a week or two later so long as they don't smell bad and they aren't furry. unless they are supposed to be furry.
posted by jb at 9:02 PM on March 16, 2011


I put all sorts of questionable food in my mouth all the time that I wouldn't necessarily serve at restaurant.
posted by mingo_clambake at 9:11 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


unless they are supposed to be furry.

please stop eating hamsters they are bad for you.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 PM on March 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


I dunno. I eat at mcdonalds sometimes and I really want to make sure that they cook the holy hell out of their meat.
posted by empath at 9:15 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


please stop eating hamsters they are bad for you.

But guinea pigs are still okay, right?
posted by jedicus at 9:17 PM on March 16, 2011


Sure, they look plump and tasty, but Guinea pigs are mostly bones, not really worth the effort. They taste OK, though.

(They were on the menu in Peru. I was intrigued.)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:23 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


as I stuff raw hamburger into my mouth

The problem with hamburger is not its doneness so much as what exactly is in that wad o' hamburger. Factory hamburger has we-know-what mixed in with it, so it's best to cook it to brown in order to kill the parasites and bacteria (and viruses?) that may be in it. If you buy a steak, and then grind it at the butcher's or at home, and you normally eat steak raw, then no problem. It's still steak, just smaller and stringier.
posted by curious nu at 9:30 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know about you, but chicken cooked below 160F is just gross.

You probably wouldn't like the chicken tartare at Ippuku in Berkeley, then.
posted by asterix at 9:36 PM on March 16, 2011


Nathan Myhrvold is a patent troll and therefore his ideas about food safety will kill me.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:36 PM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Many decades ago, my father, a physician, perhaps prejudiced by his Depression years, held the belief than the nose predicates pathological danger well before the date when it actually manifests. In other words, when it smells bad, you probably still have a day or two to eat it without jeopardizing your health. This makes evolutionary sense: better safe than sorry is a a good gene to pass down. (Still, if the milk has "turned," it gets poured down the sink!)

Now, this is only tangentially related to the post. But I wish my wife and others did not freak out over a touch of pink in chicken or pork. We don't eat a hell of a lot of meat, but when we do, I really like juiciness over hockypuckiness. It's nice to see some scientific evidence for the safety of a little pink. (See Barbara Kafka's book about Roasting for sound advice about this.)
posted by kozad at 9:58 PM on March 16, 2011


I just ate a large, attractively photographed 6 volume set of books in a plastic slipcase, will it kill me?

(side dish: plate of beans)
posted by Artw at 10:12 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Still, if the milk has "turned," it gets poured down the sink!)


There's a folk diagnosis for lactose intolerance in which you smell different kinds of milk of various degrees of freshness. If it all smells "rotten" to you, then you shouldn't drink milk.
posted by The Whelk at 10:19 PM on March 16, 2011


although that does assume a world where milk is being drunk all around you a lot and people agree on what "fresh" smells like. I could be biased, all milk smells like rotting vomit death to me, and I need 3 lactose pills and hope to eat a slice of pizza.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 PM on March 16, 2011


So what target internal temperatures do they recommend for optimal taste and texture? Is there a useful chart somewhere that isn't the USDA one?
posted by platinum at 10:25 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know the temperature for beef, but for a roast I like to do 15 min at 475F, then 15 min/pound at 375F, bit less if it's small. Should be nice and rare.
posted by jb at 10:30 PM on March 16, 2011


platinum: I like to think that, somewhere deep in the archives in the Department of Agriculture, are heavily classified documents for cooking the perfect burger.
posted by Weebot at 10:45 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a folk diagnosis for lactose intolerance in which you smell different kinds of milk of various degrees of freshness. If it all smells "rotten" to you, then you shouldn't drink milk.

My mom has this problem — not because she's lactose intolerant, but because she spent a whole summer at Girl Scout camp as the designated smell-this-milk-to-make-sure-it's-not-bad person. Apparently that'll put you off the stuff.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:55 PM on March 16, 2011


she spent a whole summer at Girl Scout camp as the designated smell-this-milk-to-make-sure-it's-not-bad person.

There's a SNL skit about this where they pass around a carton of milk and all take turns saying how awful it smells. Probably their truest skit ever.
posted by GuyZero at 11:03 PM on March 16, 2011


I once held a woman in my arms at 98.6 Fahrenheit until she melted. But she was very cold to me afterward.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:22 PM on March 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


Cooking threads on Metafilter are pointless. WTF is an F?
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:41 PM on March 16, 2011


The article makes a very good point though, about the misplaced nature of the fear. Meat is not poison to be neutralised. When I used to work in a food microbiology lab we saw that, yes, raw meats (especially chicken) had a tendency to contain more faecal contaminants, but that the vast majority of food related outbreaks were ultimately due to cross contamination. You'll cook the chicken, fine, but did you wipe down all the surfaces, or did you use a knife to chop tomatoes that you previously used to cut the meat.

And the vast majority of significant contamination is a result of industrialised processing or preparation of food. The absolute worst for me was the contamination of spray on crisp (potato chip) flavours, which led to packets of crisps which were in effect bags of salmonella preserved in a nitrogen atmosphere, coated in protective grease, waiting for eager fingers.
posted by itsjustanalias at 12:04 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll also own up to not having a logic-based method to what I'll eat. Slightly off milk gets sent down the drain, but crackers that have expired two years ago are eaten. There's some kind of "ickiness scale" at work here.
posted by Harald74 at 12:44 AM on March 17, 2011


Gilbert: I don't know about you, but chicken cooked below 160F is just gross.
asterix: You probably wouldn't like the chicken tartare at Ippuku in Berkeley, then.

This is all reminding me of when Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining ate raw chicken (chicken sushi...I can hardly type the words without wanting to barf) and recorded the experience. I recommend listening to the live audio--it's very worth it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:06 AM on March 17, 2011


The article leaves the politics largely aside, but it should be noted that government standards are written to regulate large scale production. Artisan producers often cannot afford to meet USDA standards, thus pushing them out of the market. Factory farmed chicken can be inspected, found to be contaminated, but yet approved of, as long as certain cooking standards apply.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:18 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Slightly off milk gets sent down the drain, but crackers that have expired two years ago are eaten.

That doesn't sound all that wacky. A mainly vegetable product (crackers) that has been baked (maybe with preservatives) and sealed dry is probably going to stay safe for you a long time. An animal product (milk) that has remained open and wet at bug-breeding temperatures is ready to incubate little beasts that will try to digest you before you digest them.
posted by pracowity at 2:08 AM on March 17, 2011


Slightly off milk gets sent down the drain, but crackers that have expired two years ago are eaten.

I agree with pracowity, something which always bugs me is the conflation of food spoilage with food poisoning.

Salmonella, E coli, Shigella, Campylobacter and the like do not, as a rule affect the taste or smell of food. You cannot determine the safety of food by sniffing it or looking at it.

Food spoilage is easy to detect, it smells off, it looks green, it's furry.... these are not normally the same organisms as those that will make you severely ill. It may be unpleasant, it may make you retch (we are well adapted to avoid eating spoiled foods) but best before dates are not about food safety. I have a personal rule, if it doesn't smell or look off, I'll eat it.
posted by itsjustanalias at 3:10 AM on March 17, 2011


If a prawn (shrimp) mayonnaise sandwich is fizzy, I usually spit it out.
posted by rhymer at 3:40 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a personal rule, if it doesn't smell or look off, I'll eat it.

How long does something have to be on the floor before it is inconsumable.
posted by Fizz at 4:47 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always bounce my yoghurt.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:51 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


omg the words "consume" and "consummate" are like really similar.

Also "consommé".

And "consumption" means something else altogether.

Perhaps sex really is nothing more than the vicarious filling of the lungs with clear soup. I had always wondered.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:55 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish we could post the following in every question about 'Is this Safe to Eat?':

Many people don’t realize that authorities rely on guesswork to develop these standards. Chefs, cookbook authors, and public health officials often make dogmatic statements that food cooked to a standard is “safe,” but food cooked less than the standard is “unsafe.” That can never be literally true. No matter what the standard is, if the food is highly contaminated, it might still be unsafe (especially owing to cross-contamination). And on the other hand, if the food is not contaminated, then eating it raw won’t hurt you.
posted by vacapinta at 5:09 AM on March 17, 2011


F = Farenheit. Because while Canadian weather might be metric, our cooking is still imperial.
posted by jb at 5:09 AM on March 17, 2011


I could be biased, all milk smells like rotting vomit death to me, and I need 3 lactose pills and hope to eat a slice of pizza.

I require no lactose pills for pizza, will happily scarf down a pint of ice cream in a single sitting, and still think that any milk smell = rotting vomit death.

Milk should smell like nothing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:11 AM on March 17, 2011


sour milk isn't bad for you - it just tastes bad. I cook with sour milk - it makes great biscuits. Would probably make good fluffy pancakes as well.
posted by jb at 5:14 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, old milk for pancakes or biscuits.

I wish the author had explored cross-contamination more. That's something I'm pretty vigilant about. I've noticed that lots of TV chefs exhibit very bad habits regarding cross-contamination.

Yay for medium rare pork chops!
posted by yesster at 5:18 AM on March 17, 2011


sour milk isn't bad for you - it just tastes bad. I cook with sour milk - it makes great biscuits. Would probably make good fluffy pancakes as well

I think the distinction that should be made is that there is a difference between soured milk and spoiled milk.
posted by Fizz at 5:19 AM on March 17, 2011


designated smell-this-milk-to-make-sure-it's-not-bad person

That's me. I love having this conversation come supermarket-shopping-time:

GF: We need milk.
ME: Why? There's almost a full gallon in the fridge!
GF: It's expired!
ME: That date doesn't mean anything. Here, smell the milk and see if it's bad.
GF: I'm not smelling that old nasty milk!

hi honey

Of course, I can never really tell when the milk has gone off anyway because I mostly use it for cereal and as long as it's not coming out of the jug in large chunks the sugar in the cereal mostly masks any sour notes.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:41 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


By eating all the spoiled food I have, I've developed immunities to all the spoiled I food I'll soon be eating.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:51 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is why we should be irradiating our food.
posted by delmoi at 5:57 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mother is consistently horrified by the things I'll leave out on the counter and eat the next day. Chinese food, for example. Stick it in the fridge and the sauce goes all disgusting-consistency (AND the meat gets dry), leave it on the counter and it doesn't. Time of year plays a factor, though -- fried rice is gross the next day in the summer, but not in the winter.

The only time I've ever gotten violently ill from food was when we grilled steaks and I made a sauce for them with wild mushrooms in it. I'm convinced it was the mushrooms, not the steak, but boyfriend makes me put foil on the damn grill to this day anyway. (Boooo).

As for raw milk cheeses? COME TO MAMA.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:55 AM on March 17, 2011


tumid dahlia: "I always bounce my yoghurt"

Like this?
posted by idiopath at 7:03 AM on March 17, 2011


There's a folk diagnosis for lactose intolerance in which you smell different kinds of milk of various degrees of freshness. If it all smells "rotten" to you, then you shouldn't drink milk.

That's interesting. I always have to get my partner to smell the milk, because milk always smells rotten to me no matter how fresh it is. I can't tell the difference between fresh and rotten milk. Needless to say, I'm not much of a milk drinker.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:19 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what target internal temperatures do they recommend for optimal taste and texture? Is there a useful chart somewhere that isn't the USDA one?
There are some helpful, clear charts on the Cooking Issues blog. Their primer on low-temperature cooking is good reading (along with J.Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats for the beer-cooler method and Douglas Baldwin for temperature charts and more safety discussion).

There have been a couple AskMes about low-temp cooking as well.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 7:25 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


@vacapinta: That quote you cited is very true; however consider the legal ramifications of all the parties who say "Don't eat it." They're the ones on the frontline of being sued, loosing business, and otherwise being closed by the board of health should they fail to account for your safety. While yes, Monsanto gets lumped into a large enough lawsuit, monsanto is big enough to absorb the legal fight - heck even a Jack-in-the-Box is apparently big enough to absorb the legal and PR hit from a large enough failure in food safety. Mom & Pop? If they survive the lawsuit, the bad press that you'll push down their throat will kill them business-wise.

Here's the thing - as a professional cook, as someone who is giving their expert opinion as to whether "is it safe?" is valid - I'm going to err on the side that the Tyson sent your chicken through the salmonella-o-matic-5000 and that when you left it on the counter last night about 50 roaches and a mouse did a tapdance number on it, maybe even peed a little. I make that assumption because by asking me "is it safe" you want to take the responsibilty for your food saftey off of yourself and put the responsibilty onto me, the expert. Well hell - the expert knows that if you put him in charge of it, you intend to sue him if he's wrong.

So yeah, if it was me and I made it, I'd probably eat it, because I know that it didn't make me sick last night, that I cooked it properly, and that my counter is rodent and pestilence free - but I sure as hell wouldn't assume that you are as safe as me cooking, nor would I ever serve something like it it to you in a restaurant. C.Y.A.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:41 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, is metafilter actually siding with folks who are proposing initial arguements on a lets de-regulate the food supply chain push? Seriously - yeah, it might be safe for *you* but it is not safe from a national perspective. Playing the odds as an individual, sure - you'll win in that game more often than not. When everyone plays the odds - and if the food saftey regulations were made more lax - well then now you are playing with a full bourne food illness outbreak - with no accountable parties.

Sorry folks, this is Republican de-regulation propaganda guised in liberal "common sense." By agreeing with this, you are setting the stage to loose the battle before the conversation really begins.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:46 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Modernist Cuisine does seem to have some pretty effective public relations.

/derail
posted by -t at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2011


Urgh. The problem is that food here is so frequently and randomly contaminated (listeria in broccoli!) that anyone who has to eat relatively cheap meat should fully expect it to be sketchy and disease-y. And they should cook the fuck out of it and then drown it in hot sauce/gravy. Problem solved.

Ruined chops! Oh NO!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:06 AM on March 17, 2011


Sorry folks, this is Republican de-regulation propaganda guised in liberal "common sense." By agreeing with this, you are setting the stage to loose the battle before the conversation really begins.

Also, conceding defeat in the War On Cheese would send the wrong message.
posted by acb at 8:14 AM on March 17, 2011


When everyone plays the odds - and if the food safety regulations were made more lax - well then now you are playing with a full borne food illness outbreak - with no accountable parties.

You're assuming that the current regulations could not be made any more lax without necessarily increasing the incidence of food borne illness. Is it not possible that they are, in fact, too conservative and could be loosened without any additional harm?

Suppose the regulations called for cooking all foods to an internal temperature of 100ºC/212ºF for an hour, combined with thorough irradiation. Would you not agree that those standards could be loosened without any significant increase in risk to the public? We can't assume that the existing regulations are actually based on sound food science and public health research. And we shouldn't be afraid to change the regulations if empirical evidence says we can change them without harm.

And it's not as though overly conservative cooking standards are without cost (and I don't just mean culinary costs): cooking requires time and energy, and overcooking reduces the nutritional value of food. Overcooking everything masks the underlying quality of the ingredients, making it easier for businesses to get away with using subpar products. And having standards that assume that all the ingredients are contaminated gives businesses cover to produce and use ingredients that are contaminated. It's all going to get cooked to hell anyway, right?

We also have to consider where the emphasis on food safety should be placed. Conservative temperature guidelines are the last line of defense against food borne illness. We should be focusing on how food is grown, how it's processed, and how it's treated before cooking (e.g. cross-contamination avoidance). If we address those areas first, then how the food is actually cooked won't matter so much.

Sorry folks, this is Republican de-regulation propaganda guised in liberal "common sense." By agreeing with this, you are setting the stage to loose the battle before the conversation really begins.

I believe that government regulation is often valuable and even necessary. That doesn't mean I automatically believe that the government always gets the regulations right, especially when the regulations have been shaped by a heavily-lobbied agency that has a revolving door relationship with the industry it purports to regulate.
posted by jedicus at 8:19 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am in 100% favor of a (little) bit more de-regulation in the food industry in regards as to what can be sold and produced. That said, I'm much more in favor of extensive labeling laws including legal % of foreign substances allowed in the product, country/state of origin and the availability of documentation of the facilities that processed the food.

There are small-cottage level food producers that are starting to make some pretty incredible foods, but they're only available on the gray market. Some of the BEST food I've ever had was home cured meats and raw-milk cheeses that never would have been allowed under current food safety laws. It's a shame that there's not an exception for food producers like this.

I'd much rather have warning labels for populations at risk (infants, pregnant women, seniors and anyone with compromised immune function) but actually have these items available for purchase.

Sweet JESUS I can't wait to move to a state where buying raw, un-pasteurized milk or cheese is easier than buying weed.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2011


The milk is perfectly safe as long as it smells okay, no need to panic about it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:04 AM on March 17, 2011


empath: "I dunno. I eat at mcdonalds sometimes and I really want to make sure that they cook the holy hell out of their meat."

In the lone food microbiology course I took, our professor told us that fast food chains will intentionally overcook their meat, because they can't risk the fallout of a contamination. If, say, Wendy's was found to undercook their hamburgers, they would probably lose millions upon millions of dollars. So, fast food is probably some of the safest food you can eat, and any contamination will probably come from the vegetables (lettuce especially; it's hard to clean all the folds of a leaf) or poor sanitation procedures.

delmoi: "This is why we should be irradiating our food."

I can't tell if you're being serious or not, but I work with a guy who did some work with irradiated foods. He said that the biggest problem there is that the irradiation process changes the flavor and texture of the foods, and described irradiated ground beef as incredibly rubbery.

This raises the question of risk versus enjoyment, which is kind of the article's main point. If we irradiated all the industrial foods in the US, almost nobody would contract food poisoning. However, food as we know it would be unfamiliar and often unpalatable. Seeing as how there are very few major food safety epidemics (say what you will about industrial food production, but very seldom do we question "Will this thing I just bought from the store make me sick?" People die from food poisoning, yes, but I'm willing to bet it's a minor figure), it's not worth the risk of turning our food into weird shoe rubber for the sake of saving a few (on a nation-wide scale) lives every year.
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:18 AM on March 17, 2011


Jedicus - your intent is great. I agree wholeheartedly with your intent.

I disagree with the results of your intent based on my distrust of industry as a whole - not on my distrust of the food industry.

Businesses - and I mean large businesses, be it Monsanto in the case of food or JP Morgan in the case of financials - make their profit - make the marginal returns better - by opperating at the exact extremes of the law. If you tell Hormel, they no longer need to cook the beef in their tins of Dinty Moore Beef Stew to 155 degrees and hold it their for 15 seconds, they'll save a million dollars in energy expenditures over a year (guessing here - I know no specifics about Dinty Moore or the cost of their energy usage). Tell McDonald's that they no longer need to hold their burgers at 28F when they ship (and they can now hold it at 31F) and they'll save a few million dollars - even if they have to scrap a few more truckloads annually in the event that a refridgeration system malfunctions.

None of these savings will be passed on to you.

Heck, that's accounting for these businesses to opperate above the bar and not actually intentionally violate some level of saftey standard for profit (a-la West Virginia's Massey Energy). You think the food chain - led by profiteers and staffed by an assortment of people who make direct contact with the product you use that lack even a high school education - abide by all the rules? I mean, we're not talking about the prick of a server at chilis that spits on your burger because you snapped at them. We're not talking about the Charlie Trotters that take extreme care to provide you the best possible food. We're talking about people who just don't get paid enough to care about washing their hands.

Do I think you should be able to buy raw milk? Sure. Go ahead, liscence a few *exemplary* dairies to produce a product that you think is healthier for you. Do I think that dairy should have to abide by even stricter handling standards as a result? Hell yes - and you should too. Make no mistake about it - if you think there's profit in them then thar specialty commodites - Monsanto thinks so too - and they have no problem joining you in gouging consumers and undercutting you by 15 cents or even running their operation at a 3 cent loss in order to drive you out of the market and get a bigger piece of the pie (and redefine "specialty commodities" to include factory farming practice - then jack up the price to whatever profit that they want to make...
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


sometimes I miss the old not-ridiculously-overcooked burgers of Jack in the Box pre-1993. :\ I was probably REALLY lucky that I hadn't yet found the local Jack in the Box after moving to WA in 1992. I went to the one in my hometown in CA pretty much every week.
posted by epersonae at 1:11 PM on March 17, 2011


The absolute worst for me was the contamination of spray on crisp (potato chip) flavours, which led to packets of crisps which were in effect bags of salmonella preserved in a nitrogen atmosphere, coated in protective grease, waiting for eager fingers.

You can't talk about bags of salmonella preserved in a nitrogen atmosphere if you don't have some to share with all of us.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:17 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have drunk
the milk
that was in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
indefinitely.

Forgive me
It was disgusting
so sour
and so old.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


For years I have eaten raw eggs without ever getting sick (usually free range). Last year, I began eating alot of raw hamburger meat (ground beef) and never became sick. And this was Wal-Mart cheap ground beef! And like the article pointed out, unprocessed cuts of meat dont have significant amounts of bacteria inside them.

(In case you're wondering, IMO it has a pleasant, very mellow flavor.)

My own theory is that if you have a healthy enough digestive system, these things aren't a problem. Enough good flora in the gut is protective, and even so a little bacteria isn't going to make you sick--my understanding is that there has to be a quorum of bad bacteria that survives the acidic environment of the stomach for there to be much activity in the first place. In an immune system that is depressed, or when the digestive tract is backed up, then there is danger. I think we ingest so-called "dangerous" amounts of bacteria all the time, only we never know because we usually don't get sick.

There are many condiments, herbs & spices that naturally inhibit bacteria (peppers, mustard/turmeric, cinammon...). With sushi, for example, it's become tradition to eat with wasabi or ginger. Vegetables like brussel sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables inhibit bacteria. Fresh lemon juice.

Back in the day, people drank raw milk. People left raw milk out on purpose to let bacteria naturally make curds & whey! The modern viewpoint is: kill the food, its dangerous. Once killed, perhaps it has less nutritional value and less resistance to becoming pathogenic to humans. I'm just theorizing, here. Like processed lunch meats--leave them out for 8 hours, as salty as they are, and still you will probably be getting sick, where as a pot roast would not.

Nowadays, raw milk is basically illegal.

Gore Vidal wrote about the days when you could walk into any diner or drugstore in the country and get a ham sandwich. But not any more. The things called ham sandwiches today aren't ham sandwiches. It's like The Matrix cereal box--how do WE know what its supposed to taste like? Fortunately we still have these folks from the older generation around who can let us in on the secret that maybe we've forgotten what real food is...

I was watching this PBS documentary this week about a couple who lived out in the bayou wilderness. When she returned to civilisation, one of the things she had to get used to was commercial ketchup, which she said tasted very overcooked and bad when she was used to homemade ketchup.

On leftovers: Personally, if it smells fine I eat it!
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 6:59 AM on March 18, 2011


"Has consolidation been good for the customers? By and large, no. Monopolies
allow for no bargains, nor do they have to fuss too much about quality because
we have no alternative to what they offer. Needless to say, they are hostile to
labor unions and indifferent to working conditions for the once independent
farmers, now ill-paid employees. For those of us who grew up in the prewar
United States there was the genuine ham sandwich. Since consolidation, ham has
been so rubberized that it tastes of nothing at all while its texture is like
rosy plastic. Why? In the great hogariums a hog remains in one place, on its
feet, for life. Since it does not root about—or even move—it builds up no
natural resistance to disease. This means a great deal of drugs are pumped into
the prisoner's body until its death and transfiguration as inedible ham."

-Gore Vidal, Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace (writing of how big ag conspired to eliminate family farms)

Logic: raise cheap, unhealthy meat...then cook the hell of it so you don't die from it.

I wonder if plants, if they are the primary sources of salmonella etc., are more infected because of unhealthy big-agriculture practices?
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 7:27 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


These GOP Budget Cuts Might Make You Puke (or Worse): How food safety could fall victim to the Republicans' budget-slashing mania.
posted by homunculus at 10:46 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Drug-Resistant Bacteria: To Humans From Farms via Food
posted by homunculus at 10:47 AM on March 18, 2011


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