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The Food Safety and Home Kitchen Hygiene/Sanitation Topic


fresco
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Interesting that they choose to call this a "spice" when it's tasteless. I guess "additive" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

It's also worth noting that many real spices and herbs also kill bacteria and other pathogens in food.

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I want to know what happens when someone with an egg allergy ingests it. No, on second thought, I don't. Not a pretty sight.

But note that they say it does NOT kill pathogens; only delays the infection or intoxication that results from ingesting them. What the hell good is that?

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  • 1 year later...

While strolling through Grand Central Station the other day, I decided to get a piece of skate from Wild Edibles in the food market. The woman behind the counter picked up my skate (no gloves), puts it on the scale (no paper or plastic in between the fish and the scale) tells me how much is it, and dropped it a plastic bag and tells me to pick it up at the register.

I said: "Okay, put that piece of fish in the trash and get me another one. This time please put a piece of paper or drop it into a plastic bag before you put it one the scale. And, please wear gloves when touching the fish."

The woman: "We clean the scale frequently. At least two or three times a day.'

Me: "That's not the point. If one of your fish has a bacteria issue, you are not containing it."

The woman: " They all swim in the same ocean."

Me: "Are you telling me that your arctic char and your octopus came from the same ocean?"

The Woman: "It's allowed because they are all fish. It's not a health code problem is they are all fish and cut up on the same counter."

I lost my patience at that point. It was a lovely piece of Skate but not enough for me to risk food poisoning. Most people would have taken the skate, cooked it, and enjoyed it without all that fuss. Being a food person, probably made me less tolerant of unhealthy food practices.

So, what is your tolerance level? Do you have the gut of rasputin? Or, the delicate consitution of a neurotic? What won't you eat under any circumstances and what would induce you to eat at your own risk?

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Bond Girl - something similar happened when I first moved to Cleveland 9 years ago. I ordered a burger from a downtown Burger King and was appalled that the woman who assembled the sandwich wasn't wearing food service gloves. I complained, and was told that it wasn't required in Cleveland. I walked out without the sandwich.

I looked into it and learned that the server was correct - there were no requirements in Ohio or Cleveland for gloves to be worn during food service. That has since changed - but I think you were right to walk out. Cross contamination is a bad thing.

Another time, I bought some Turbot filet at a grocery to make into a stir fry. As I was cutting it up, a worm wiggled out! I saved it and returned the fish to the store the next day (we ate out that night) and was told this happens sometime. The Cleveland Health Dept. and the FDA later told me the same thing. All the more reason for fresh fish products to be kept from cross contaminating, though the authorities assured me that had I cooked the fish thoroughly, the worm would have disappeared from sight and been harmless. Ugh.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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I don't have a problem with the hands as long as they are washed frequently but the scale must be disinfected or protected from the raw fish every time. I think gloves are overated, too easy to contaminate by touching your face, making change, etc.. I would also ask to smell the fish before they wrap it up.

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I guess "minimum requirements" and "health" are mutually exclusive!

The other day, after ambling through the Gates and freezing for a good couple of hours, a friend and I wandered into a diner-type coffee shop on Broadway. We just wanted to warm up with a cup of coffee and maybe something light to eat. So -- we went to sit at a table, and the seats were all full of food. Okay, we brushed them off. The waiter gave us menus, and they were all sticky with honey or maple syrup or something of that ilk. We ordered coffee and toasted corn muffins, and the coffee came first, with lipstick stains on one of the mugs. :shock: We got up and walked out (after telling the waiter that the seats were dirty, the menus were dirty, the cups were dirty, and they should not be open for business!)

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I tend to go more on my overall sense of the place. Does it smell clean, look clean, have I had good stuff there before? For seafood, a good place smells like the sea, not of old fish or bleach. If I trust the place as a whole, I'm less inclined to nit pick details, i.e. if I thought the skate market was selling anything contaminated, I wouldn't be buying skate (or anything else) there. In general, I like to see good saniatry handling practices employed 100%, but I'm not going to let a small slip stop me from buying what I'm confident is good product from a good store.

As for the worm, it could occur naturally. I fish a lot in salt water and many salt water fish are prone to worm like parasites, particularly near the tail. I don't have specific experience with turbot, but my guess is the worm came in the fish, didn't crawl in off the street. And they are generally harmless, albeit alarming if you haven't seen it before, and they're right about them mostly disappearing upon cooking.

Bon Appetit! :laugh:

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I, for one, think you are over reacting. No food product arrives from source to store in a vacuum. In a busy market, all the fish gets cut and/or cleaned on the same boards using the same knives. I think using plastic gloves, wax paper, and stuff like that is all for show anyway. There really is no way to keep everything completely separate from everything else. Who is to say that if you pick a trout from the case that a piece of ice from the salmon next to it didnt just land on it. Should they throw everything away? If it's all fresh and going to be cooked anyway, then what's the big deal. If she was scooping out macaroni salad with her bare hand and plopping it onto the scale's tray, then that would freak me out a bit...

But, that's just me... :smile:

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Another time, I bought some Turbot filet at a grocery to make into a stir fry.  As I was cutting it up, a worm wiggled out!  I saved it and returned the fish to the store the next day (we ate out that night) and was told this happens sometime.  The Cleveland Health Dept. and the FDA later told me the same thing.  All the more reason for fresh fish products to be kept from cross contaminating, though the authorities assured me that had I cooked the fish thoroughly, the worm would have disappeared from sight and been harmless.  Ugh.

The worm thing is no sign of handling or sanitation, could happen to any piece of fish, fresh or frozen, and I have seen it is swordfish (the worst, biggest, slimiest worms), and the best fresh tuna I have ever worked with ( smaller, but just as slimy, and heartbreaking to cut out).

As an instructor in a culinary arts school, I see poor hygeine, poor sanitatoin, and poor handling of product by students daily, and I must say, I have to maintain a certain level of accpetance for that on a daily basis. It is not that uncommon for me to give a student a piece of fish, and for it to sit on the counter, even though the student is surrounded by low-boy coolers, from teh time that I give it to him, to the time that they cook it in the last five minutes of a two and a half hour practical. Now, the student looses beaucoup points, but, I have to eat it, and I am fine with it for the most part, unless I know that it is getting to be off when I give it to him.

I had a chef instructor when I was in school that told me that he could drink five gallons of dishwashing detergent and not get diarhea becuase of all the messed up food that he had eaten over the years in the school.... :biggrin:

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I wouldn't have been freaked out by that situation either. In DE there is no regulation saying that food service people have to wear gloves, and honestly it is has bever bothered me if people were or weren't wearing them.

I agree that just getting a general feel for the place can be the best bet. I will not order fish from a fishy smelling counter, but if it all smells and looks good I don't care how they handle it, provided they aren't dragging it across the ground or anything.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I think my tolerance level varies from one place to another. At a place like Wild Edibles where they pride themselves on having pristine, top quality products, with higher price points, I expected a certain degree of cleaniless. At a street market in southeast Asia, all bets are off.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Good points, adeguilio.

You're right in that there is bound to be cross-contamination regardless, but I'd still feel more comfortable knowing that they were doing everything possible to minimize it. I especially have a problem with their placing the skate directly on the scale (unclean!), even if they do clean the scale "several times a day". Maybe it's just a knee-jerk reaction on my part, maybe the gloves & paper are just for show, but I'd still feel more comfortable.

That said, I'm not sure how I would've reacted in the same situation. I definitely would have thought twice, but depending on the overall cleanliness of the place, and the smell of the fish itself, I may have bought it anyway.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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I don't have a problem with the hands as long as they are washed frequently but the scale must be disinfected or protected from the raw fish every time.  I think gloves are overated, too easy to contaminate by touching your face, making change, etc..  I would also ask to smell the fish before they wrap it up.

I have to agree, gloves give an incredible false sense of security. I've worked with cooks and chefs who seem to think that wearing one set of gloves is the equivalent to perpetual hand cleaning (that's one set for a shift!). I personally have zero tolerance for poor sanitation in the kitchens I work in, but cultural changes are the single hardest thing to do in a management position. I walked out of a job in Kansas City the first day when I saw the Exececutive Chef cut a raw chicken in half, and them immediately use the same board to slice cooked chicken for plating (didn't even bother with the sani-water, lip service to food safety would've been a huge plus). If you've got that little respect for, or knowledge of food safety, why would I choose to associate myself with you?

From my perspective, I cannot afford to ever get one person sick, EVER. This leads to a borderline paranoia in a lot of cooking situations, but I've figured out ways to address the behavior without attacking the person, and explaining to them that my reputation is on the line (no pun intended) when they choose to cut corners during service. If I'm working a station (broil or sautee) I'll wash my hands after every high PHF that I touch. Yes, it slows things down a little bit, but to quote my mentor, "Do you want it right? Or do you want it right now?" It's really about awareness, and once cooks have learned to really look at what they're doing, they've usually (but not always) had the importance of handwashing beaten into them.

As to what I'll tolerate when I'm out. Very little. If I see more than one food handling mistake (be it temperature, cross-contamination, handwashing, etc.) in a meal, I'll point them out, leave, and never return. Food is sacred, and failure to treat it as such is a violation of the laws of survival.

"It is just as absurd to exact excellent cooking from a chef whom one provides with defective or scanty goods, as to hope to obtain wine from a bottled decoction of logwood." -Escoffier
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I just have to wonder what other practices are going on behind the counter if the employee defends an unsanitary practice such as placing fish directly on a scale that who knows how long ago was cleaned. There are fish toxins that aren't destroyed by cooking and are easily spread by cross contamination. The lack of concern by the employee about your sanitation question is disturbing and I'd be writing or calling her supervisor.

I also agree that gloves are overrated. Hands that are washed frequently can be much cleaner than gloves that have been worn for hours. I saw someone go out for a smoke once wearing gloves, and went back to work with the same gloves on. Now that's gross.

My expectaion is that if I raise a concern about food safety with someone, that it be taken seriously and acted upon.

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I'd almost prefer that the people who handle my fish are properly trained in hygiene practices and not wear gloves. Gloves are currently used as a crutch and are no guarantee of anything accept that the handler will not get any of the fish to touch their hands. I've seen countless exchanges where staff doesn't change gloves between sales. I have seen many times when staff touches their hats or hair with gloves on and then proceeds to wrap the fish. And most of all, you rarely see anyone wash their hands just before reaching into the box of gloves to get their fingers all over the outside of the gloves they are about to put on.

To me, I prefer their clean, bare hands on the fish and when they are done, because the hands will be wet and perhaps a bit slippery from handing the fish, they will be prompted to wash them.

As far as the scale, since the only thing on the scale is fish that is already in the case, I see the little piece of wax paper as being for show. (Particularly since the waxed paper is grabbed, more often than not, with hands gloved from the previous sale.) When you get home, rinse your fish properly, cook it, and enjoy it.

If the fishmonger is reputable, the surroundings appear to be well cared for, the employees wash their hands regularly, and the place smells of the sea I say forget all the modern hoopla of tiny pieces of waxed paper and thousands of vinyl gloves.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Agreed that gloves that are kept on are really no cleaner than hands that are unwashed. However, it was my understanding that gloves were used as a barrier in case there was an open cut or sore on the person's hands (and not just for "cleanliness" per se), in which case they do make some sense.

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I'm not going to say one person is right and one person is wrong in this discussion. But, I will urge people to remember that effectively there are 2 types of contamination: chemical and biological. In this example, I'd be more worried about biological contamination.

However, with the likely small number of viable pathogens transferred to this fish, you would need a fairly long incubation time to have them be at a meaningful population to get someone ill--beyond that, if the skate is still a whole fish, the contaminated part of the fish is going to be subjected to the most severe environment and will be effectively sterilized.

I think you have a point to make a suggestion and deny the sale, but that is a severe reaction, IMO. On the other hand, if you were intending on eating this fish without any cooking, please, allow me to recant what I wrote about a severe reaction and place me squarely in your camp.

But, humans never evolved with a sterile, cooked food supply. A healthy, robust human can handle a few germs in their diet. Lord knows we breathe enough in, and ingest enough simply by our food mixing with our sputum. Support the little guys with education and suggestions to keep you coming back.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Where do you people shop? :blink:

At the fish counters in the grocery stores where I shop, the clerks put on disposable clear plastic gloves (they have a box of them) with each customer. They put the seafood into a clear plastic bag (they have a roll of them) and place that on the scale to be weighed. When the transaction is complete, they strip off the gloves and toss them in the trash and put on a new pair of gloves when they have another customer. Just like your doctor and/or dentist should be doing. I don't know if this is a California thing, or a county thing or just a good business practice.

If something similar isn't being done in your favorite grocery store/fish market, speak up and share your concerns with the manager. Or take your business elsewhere if it troubles you that much.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I think any kind of nit picky food fear is unjustified, especially if it's not on a greater level. If you wonder about the farm water and the screening practices for the butchers and the trucks and the roads and the air, then fine, wonder about the gloves. if not, it's totally unjustifed. Gloves are ridiculous, even the ones changed every time. It's nice to try to effect your food on a local level yet, if you dont look further, it's a waste of time to worry so much. That said, if things make me squemish, than I just don't go for them. The immune system in a heathy adult is equipped to handle a fair load of contamination and actually gains resistance by fighting disease. Sometimes I feel we are over sanitised yet when eating tartar, not so much :blink:

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I'm in two minds about this...

Gloves: seems like every time I see them, the wearer is being more cavalier about what his/her hands are coming in contact with than a person who simply washed his/her hands frequently. I especially hate to see gloves moving from food to till to food to...

Hygienic practices: my Dad use to say that a pharmacy had to not only be clean, it had to look clean, and he had to look as if he cared about it being clean. In retail, that's true.

I have a friend who cooks wearing plastic gloves. She really prefers to eat out, because she fears that even a clean home kitchen is unsanitary, and restaurants are safer. I hate to disabuse her, in case she starves...

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