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Old 07-03-2009, 10:34 AM   #1
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The Food Police - Overkill?

Hi all,

I was just reading the thread on reheating meat marinades and wanted to put out this question. In general, do you think all the warnings about food safety and risky cooking practices are warranted?

It seems that we are bombarded with this or that dire warning about this or that particular food/practice etc. practically everyday. From my experience of 59 years on earth, having eaten at my mother's table, hundreds of restaurants, other people's homes, and my own cooking - I can name only one instance where I got sick from something I ate. And it was basically a 24 hour nausea and diarrhea thing. The same holds true for almost everyone I know.

Of course I know that serious illness or even death can result from eating tainted or spoiled food, but really, how high are the odds? If it's rare enough to make the news when there is an outbreak of salmonella, hepatitis or other illness, then is it really such a terrible threat?

I guess what brought this rant on is a weariness from the constant warnings in the media. You know the ones..."Is your house making you sick" or "What you don't know about chicken can kill you" or "How your Fourth of July picnic can land you in an emergency room".
Is it all just hype to get you to watch or read? Is the threat really so great that it warrants a front page warning?

What has been your experience? Is just plain common sense enough to keep you and yours safe? Is my head buried in the sand?

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Old 07-03-2009, 10:43 AM   #2
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In general, yes there is a lot of overkill that goes on, but (and this is a big but) I take issue when people say they have never gotten sick from doing xyz and they have never made anyone else sick from doing xyz and etc.

Food poisoning can come in many forms and it can take days before the symptoms present themselves. You could get a headache 2 days after eating something and that headache could be from food poisoning from that meal 48 hours prior. Only a doctor can diagnose food poisoning. In most cases food poisoning is not a big deal. You have a headache or loose stool or a belly ache or stiff neck or any number of other symptoms for a short while and then you are fine. But to say that no one has ever gotten sick from you (and I am not saying YOU Laury. I am saying you in the general sense) have never made anyone sick from your cooking or food handling is actually something that no one can ever really know. I know that my friends do not call me to tell me of a headache they got on Wed after eating at my house on Monday.

Ever had a 24 hour flu? Almost everyone I know has at some point or another said they have had a 24 hour flu. 24 hour flu does not exist. In most cases it is food poisoning.
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Old 07-03-2009, 10:53 AM   #3
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I agree with GB. How many times have you heard someone say they had a stomach flu???

In general, the media gets your attention by blowing things out of proportion. They tease you with spot announcements to get you to watch the 11:00 news. If you actually listen, it's often a lot of nothing.

However, it does not pay to react to this by not being careful. I got 4 people sick with a Christmas dinner I made a while back. We were fighting over two bathrooms for several hours. It's not fun and I can only guess what caused it.

Don't refer to you r mother's and grandmother's ways of doing things because food isn't processed they way it was when they were your age. Pork is much safer than it was then and chicken is less safe than it was then.
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Old 07-03-2009, 10:59 AM   #4
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While most of us are careful and sanitary with our food, there are some who are certainly less so. I have a sensitive gastro system and have been sick from many places I've eaten - even my own home a time or two. Most of it probably wasn't a sanitary problem as much as a sensitivity, but we should still take all the precautions we can to keep foods at the right temperatures, handle carefully and observe high standards. Any kind of food illness is indeed a serious thing and can weaken the immune system mightily.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:09 AM   #5
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what GB said; Warn me and let me decide whether or not to take the risk.................. canning is my big issue; i do it the way Granny did it, and I'm told it's totally unsafe;
Well 11 kids, 23 grandkids, and 1 1 1 great grand-kids are all alive and kickin' ............
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:15 AM   #6
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Well I can honestly say that 90% or my 24 hour flu's were, ahem, work related. In other words, I made them up to get a day off from work. That said, since most food related illnesses are mild in the grand scheme of things, why do they warrant so much attention? If chicken is less safe, does it just mean that you have a higher probability of getting a little sick from it if not properly prepared. If so, why the hype? Almost all food sicknesses are not serious, as GB stated. Aren't they just part of the business of life? Think of the billions of mothers throughout the world that feed their families without the benefit of refrigeration or sanitary kitchens. Those societies seem to survive just fine. Mind you, I'm not ignoring the devastating illnesses caused by poor sanitation, open sewers and the like. These are real and a true threat.

I'm just saying that one shouldn't be scared into wiping down the kitchen with bleach twice a day to ward off certain death.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laury View Post
Well I can honestly say that 90% or my 24 hour flu's were, ahem, work related.
LOL I love it!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Laury View Post
If chicken is less safe, does it just mean that you have a higher probability of getting a little sick from it if not properly prepared. If so, why the hype? Almost all food sicknesses are not serious, as GB stated. Aren't they just part of the business of life?
For the majority of people this is true, but there are people on the fringes who a small sickness could be very serious. The very young and the eldery both have immune systems that are not as good as most people. Also people who are sick or who have compromised immune systems for other reasons would be at greater risk. For most people getting a little sick is just an inconvenience, but for others it really can be life or death.
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Think of the billions of mothers throughout the world that feed their families without the benefit of refrigeration or sanitary kitchens. Those societies seem to survive just fine.
What is your definition of surviving just fine? One of the biggest causes of death in the world, specifically 3rd world countries, is diarrhea which is a common symptom of food poisoning.

Quote:
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I'm just saying that one shouldn't be scared into wiping down the kitchen with bleach twice a day to ward off certain death.
This I agree with. There is such a thing as taking reasonable precautions and there is such a thing as going overboard. When working with chicken I take a lot of precautions. The other night I had a small piece of chicken (very small) go flying off the knife and land somewhere on the counter where I had a ton of other stuff piled up. I looked, but could not find the piece. I did not pull everything apart and sanitize every surface it could have come in contact with.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:30 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB View Post
LOL I love it!
For the majority of people this is true, but there are people on the fringes who a small sickness could be very serious. The very young and the eldery both have immune systems that are not as good as most people. Also people who are sick or who have compromised immune systems for other reasons would be at greater risk. For most people getting a little sick is just an inconvenience, but for others it really can be life or death. What is your definition of surviving just fine? One of the biggest causes of death in the world, specifically 3rd world countries, is diarrhea which is a common symptom of food poisoning.

This I agree with. There is such a thing as taking reasonable precautions and there is such a thing as going overboard. When working with chicken I take a lot of precautions. The other night I had a small piece of chicken (very small) go flying off the knife and land somewhere on the counter where I had a ton of other stuff piled up. I looked, but could not find the piece. I did not pull everything apart and sanitize every surface it could have come in contact with.
I think this particular form of diarrhea in 3rd world countries is related to dysentery which is closely tied to open sewers and/or otherwise poor waste management. If those conditions were remedied, the instances of dysentery would be greatly reduced.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:37 AM   #9
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While I have no doubt that you are correct that that is a major contributor, I would be willing to bet that improper food handling is also a contributing factor. The thing is, there is no way to know. Only a doctor can diagnose food poisoning. We can assume though, that food is not kept in conditions that 1st world countries would consider sanitary and while I personally do think that peoples systems adjust to what they are used to (IE: people in those countries can tolerate food held in poor conditions much better than some of us would handle it) there is no denying that diarrhea is a major symptom of food poisoning and they way food is handled in those countries is a prime example of how to get food poisoning. Can we know for sure what percentage is from food and what percentage is from poor waste management and what percent is from other things? Nope we can't know for sure. We can make certain assumptions though and knowing that poor food handling contributes to food poisoning and diarrhea is a major symptom of food poisoning we can assume that a certain percentage of those with it got it because of their food.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:48 AM   #10
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Being in the food industry and working in all sorts of conditions (venues have various degrees of "food safe" kitchens), I find that I have to be extra careful in this regard. I am not just feeding my family, but sometimes 150 people at once.

At a recent wedding, one pan of chicken cacciatore (out of four) didn't get cooked quite enough and two people complained. I had to take all the chicken off the buffet and redo it. Thankfully I had kept the hot holding temperature steady so I was able to recook the chicken and get it out fast. But I was still concerned the next day to hear if anyone had gotten sick.

At home I could be more relaxed, but since safety rules are deep set in me for work I tend to be over cautious.

I do know people who are not as strict about it and they are all still here to tell about it! But I do still cringe on Sunday mornings at church when they insist on using open sugar bowls instead of the pour spout ones I bought and then pour the sugar (which has more often than not had used spoons in it) back into the container at the end of the day.
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