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NY Sous Vide Lockdown


Megan Blocker
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Rut roh...just saw this article on NYTimes.com about the NY health departments concerns over sous vide.

I'm thinking more temporary setback/annoyance than real problem. Thoughts?

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Interesting Megan,I was thinking about the legal issues so i actually fowarded the article to 2 prominent foodie attorney's in NYC and they both seem to agree that the health department cannot fine you for using SV because they dont have an approved plan for it. They say that while it probably isnt in the restaurants interest per-se, if anyone actually challenged the rulings in court, they would be thrown out simply because there isnt anything in the legislative or food code that forbids it. People dont catch up with legislation, legislation catches up to people. Until they actually write a code for it, it would basically be ruled "unconstitutional" to force any restaurant not to do it.

Certainly everyone know's taking on the health dept is as wise as taking on the IRS.

Its just another case of the clueless beurucracy acting in the guise of public interest while kids are being hit by stray bullets walking to school.

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Gastronomy, meet bureaucracy.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has quelled the sous vide revolution, for the moment. In the past few weeks inspectors have told some chefs to throw out shrink-wrapped food, forbidden them to use the equipment used to make it and told them to stop cooking and storing food sous vide until they have a government-approved plan for it.

NYT Article

I suppose some restaurants already have the paperwork done. How many are there that have not?

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This is actually a good thing.

Evidently, this cooking method needs to be executed properly to eliminate the chance for bacterial problems.

The rise in popularity of this method has probably caught the city and perhaps the industry by suprise.

The real potential problems are probably not with the current practitioners who seem to be, for the most part, top rank chef's with solid training, but rather as the method continues to grow in popularity and less qualified chefs and cooks in restaurants use it.

It seems the city is being a bit heavy handed here--they usually are in these matters.

David Bouley is quoted as saying the new city requirements are "a good thing."

That's good enough for me.

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its pretty outrageous to ban something before it is understood

rather than analyze the process and make a conclusion

for sure there is risk in preparing sous vide foods, just as there is risk in using any foods,

generally the lack of oxygen makes for a safer and cleaner environment, not to mention more orderly and efficient.

when sous vide pork bellies are thrown in the garbage but pork bellies in a lexan with covering 6 to 8 inches higher are considered valuable, then the process is flawed.

unfortunately it seems like a transparent attempt to increase revenue by declaring a new offense effective immediately without any announcement publication or training; the only motivation can be revenue;

it is easier to fine someone for doing something you dont know how to do than to learn how and educate people how to do it properly.

what a disgraceful sham.

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So, even though

no health problem has ever been tied to sous vide in restaurant kitchens in New York,

the inspectors still demand that

restaurateurs who wanted to use sous vide need to have a food scientist draw up a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan, a procedure laid out in the federal Food Code.

Sorry, but that smacks of bullcrap! Just sounds like the FDA went "Oh boy....sous vide...oh boy...what do we do about that....oh yeah! ban it all and we'll sort it out later"

I personally agree with Barber's statement

A complete restriction of any use of sous vide would feel like we were going back 10 years.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Unfortunately this was predicitable. As the fad grew it would draw peoples attention some good, and some bad. I find it incredible that they are taking it to this extreme and imposing such hard fines.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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I feel bad for the guy who wants to do some cool food at his restaurant, just shelled out $5000 to $6000 for his immersion circulator and a cryovac, and know he's told he can't use the unless he shells out a few grand more.

M. Schmidt

Cafe909.com

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...generally the lack of oxygen makes for a safer and cleaner environment...

Except when you're talking about things like botulism. Just because a food preparation method is trendy doesn't mean it's exempt from public health concerns. Robyn

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Though in general I feel that such a broad ban is somewhat heavy handed, and I would generally trust these top chefs to employ safe food handling practices, I must disagree with this comment. Imagine if the FDA approved all drugs submitted by drug companies THEN investigated the drug to determine if it was safe!

Simon

its pretty outrageous to ban something before it is understood

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...generally the lack of oxygen makes for a safer and cleaner environment...

Except when you're talking about things like botulism. Just because a food preparation method is trendy doesn't mean it's exempt from public health concerns. Robyn

No it should not be exempt, but treating it in the manner that they have is simply rediculous. It' not like Botulism has become an epidemic and needs to be controlled, there is not even a single documented case apparently linked to sous vide. So their response is beyond extreme and reeks of nothing but ignorance.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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its pretty outrageous to ban something before it is understood

rather than analyze the process and make a conclusion

for sure there is risk in preparing sous vide foods, just as there is risk in using any foods,

generally the lack of oxygen makes for a safer and cleaner environment, not to mention more orderly and efficient.

when sous vide pork bellies are thrown in the garbage but pork bellies in a lexan with covering 6 to 8 inches higher are considered valuable, then the process is flawed.

unfortunately it seems like a transparent attempt to increase revenue by declaring a new offense effective immediately without any announcement publication or training; the only motivation can be revenue;

it is easier to fine someone for doing something you dont know how to do than to learn how and educate people how to do it properly.

what a disgraceful sham.

It is pretty clear in the times coverage that there is some confusion and the City is trying to sort it out.

Food preparation in NYC is already regulated and monitored--there are guidelines.

It is also clear that sous vide as a food preparation technique has potential problems if not practiced safely--like any technique.

Seems the city is attempting to review sou vide as it fits or doesn't fit into current guidelines.

They may be a bit heavy handed here but they are --I believe--acting on the side of safety first.

If David Bouley is ok overall with the need for regulation with these actions then I have a hard time not accepting them as well.

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I must disagree with this comment. Imagine if the FDA approved all drugs submitted by drug companies THEN investigated the drug to determine if it was safe!

The difference is a blanket ban on a specific process because it's in vogue isnt the same as banning an unproven drug with possible lethal side effects.

Sous Vide is already proven safe, just because of the possibility that a few clueless fools arent following general requisite sanitation practices ( which happens all the time in Non sous vide cookery) isnt a reason to ban the process.

Its like banning people making stock because some people may not cool it down properly in an ice bath or blast chiller.

By the way, speaking of "FDA aproving drugs that may kill you before fully understanding that the aforementioned drugs might very well kill you therefore prompting a recall"

Ever hear of.....

Celebrex

:blink:

Vioxx :wacko:

Bextra :huh:

?

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It' not like Botulism has become an epidemic and needs to be controlled, there is not even a single documented case apparently linked to sous vide.

Amen brother.

There are more ladies walking around New York with BOtulinum TOXin injected in thier faces than recorded botulism infections in New York restaurants in the last 20 years.

Edited by Vadouvan (log)
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If David Bouley is ok overall with the need for regulation with these actions then I have a hard time not accepting them as well.

Just curious, why is that?

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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If David Bouley is ok overall with the need for regulation with these actions then I have a hard time not accepting them as well.

Just curious, why is that?

Basically, in the story the complaints from professionals quoted or noted were

about the inconvenience and unfairness of the way the city handled the issue not about the

need for training and education and regulation.

In fact, seems that the piece made the point that most practitioners of this technique were highly trained in the proper methodology involved.

That is a sure indication that in the hands of one with no or poor training there could be health problems.

Bouley was quoted.

Had he, or any professional, been noted as having a problem with the ultimate safety goals of the health department I would have had to think about this further.

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I see, it's just that a Chef like Bouley surely has much more resources at his disposal than your average ambitious young cook who probably cannot afford to hire a "food scientist" (is that like Harold McGee :smile:?) to do a hazard analysis. It all sounds way too extreme for a non-issue.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I see, it's just that a Chef like Bouley surely has much more resources at his disposal than your average ambitious young cook who probably cannot afford to hire a "food scientist" (is that like Harold McGee :smile:?) to do a hazard analysis. It all sounds way too extreme for a non-issue.

And hence the argument for the city to establish guidelines for this method and enforce them.

As a consumer i like the assurance that the people preparing my food and and the environment in which my food is prepared meets at least minimal standards which are monitored.

My fear would be some poorly trained chef or cook without proper equipment was behind my dish--regardless of the technique.

I don;t think this has anything to do with Bouley or any particular chef it is how the city health dept views sou vide cooking in terms of consumer safety and what guidelines they develop for its use in restaurants.

My understanding is that like cold smoking--one needs to be knowledgeable and careful in its application.

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Most cases of food poisoning in the US (and there are lots of them) are relatively minor (people get the trots or throw up for 24 hours and never wind up in a doctor's office). Been there - done that (although my husband has done it worse - he wound tossing his cookies one morning in New York in a planter outside of Bloomingdales). As with many diseases - like the flu - you're not talking about serious life threatening problems unless you're dealing with a very young - or old - or infirm person.

That is not - however - any reason to abandon or relax public health measures which deal with the safety of food products. I suspect that most of you arguing to the contrary in this thread would not argue as strongly if you were talking about less trendy things - like ground beef in fast food burger joints. Robyn

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I also want to add that the regulation of drugs has just about nothing to do with the regulation of food. In a nutshell - new drugs cannot be sold in the US (under federal law) unless they are found to be safe and effective. There is no similar law which applies to food. Robyn

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Almost nothing except its the Federal Food and Drug Administration that regulates them both. And with both, the FDA is intensely focussed on manufacturing/storage/shipping processes.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I also want to add that the regulation of drugs has just about nothing to do with the regulation of food. In a nutshell - new drugs cannot be sold in the US (under federal law) unless they are found to be safe and effective. There is no similar law which applies to food. Robyn

Absurd !

As Mr Aman said, the FDA regulates both, while the criteria is slightly different there are ingredients that bridge the differences in the form of food additives and supplements.

The FDA already has guidelines for Vacuum pouch cookery, the NYC health dept trying to focus on sous vide is hypocrisy and absolutely stupid since they ignore all the restaurants in Ny that dont have tile floors, floor coving, 3 compartment sinks, FRP or equivalent walls, hand sinks, dedicated ice buckets, lower than regulated bacterial spore counts in thier ice machines....shall I go on ?

Its like the CIA arresting you for googling information on Nuclear weapons while ignoring the fact that you sell contraband AK 47-s to the Bloods and Crips is Los Angeles.

90 % of all deli products are cooked sous vide commercially.

If they crack down on sous vide now, i cant Imagine what they would do in terms of required certification onec they get wind of the use of ingredients and enzymes like Xanthan Gums, Carrageenan, Transglutaminase, ect ect.

Are chefs going to be required to have chemistry degrees ?

The europeans must be in stitches right about now.

So much for the most cutting edge food city in America.... :hmmm:

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Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. With regard to "new drugs" (as that term is defined by law) - no one is allowed to sell them until they receive pre-market approval from the FDA. There is nothing similar when it comes to food (you don't need pre-market approval from the FDA to sell a new breakfast cereal).

As for the New York City Department of Health - I don't live in New York - and don't know anything about it. I assume that it is supposed to work like other health departments when it comes to restaurants - but have no idea whether it does a good job of it. Robyn

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That is not - however - any reason to abandon or relax public health measures which deal with the safety of food products.  I suspect that most of you arguing to the contrary in this thread would not argue as strongly if you were talking about less trendy things - like ground beef in fast food burger joints.  Robyn

I would safely say that I would feel safer eating something cooked sous-vide than some random supermarket pre-ground beef. I am much more worried about ground beef -- to the point where if I need ground beef, I grind it myself.

As people have mentioned, sous-vide has been around for years. It is hardly "trendy", it is just becoming more visible. Have you ever had beef stew, or other stew like dish from room service in a hotel? Sous-vide and they have been doing that for quite some time.

I think there are far more important food safety issues that the NYC DOH can worry about than this.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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