TV Cooking Shows Might Be Failing Safety Standards

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Television cooking shows may be making kitchens less sanitary, according to a new study from the Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior.

The study found that TV cooking shows overlook safe food-handling practices, influencing millions of viewers.

“The majority of practices rated were out of compliance or conformance with recommendations in at least 70 percent of episodes and food safety practices were mentioned in only three episodes,” said lead author Nancy L. Cohen, PhD, RD, LDN, FAND. “Only four practices were observed to be in compliance or conformance with recommendations in more than 50 percent of the episodes. For most behaviors observed, the percentage of shows in conformance with recommended practices was much lower than that seen in restaurant employees and consumers in general.”

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Researchers surveyed consumers and found that food safety practices have declined in recent years. For instance, the number of people who washed their hands before handling food, cooked to required temperatures, or separated meat and poultry from ready-to-eat food decreased in 2011 compared to 2008 or 2010.

They also found that many consumers — roughly 73 percent — got their food safety information from the media, and 22 percent of consumers said that cooking shows were their main source of food-related information.

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“There are many opportunities on cooking shows to educate the public regarding safe food handling practices and help reduce the incidence of foodborne illness,” Cohen said. “Similarly, nutrition and food safety educators could work with the media to produce shows that demonstrate positive food safety behaviors and educate consumers about food safety practices as they adopt recipes.”

The study suggested that TV cooking shows could improve by requiring chefs and contestants to have food safety training, use food safety as a judging criteria in competitions, and incorporate food safety in scripts.

Roughly 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses sicken Americans every year, causing about 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Danielle Tarasiuk

Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.