- Dena Oct 22, 1999 09:43 AM
I'm taking "La Technique" at the French Culinary Institute and my chef-instructor told us about a bacteria that I've never heard of before. I'm just a bit skeptical, as you'd think it would be widely known if it were as serious as he described. I wondered if anyone else is familiar with this: he said that there's a bacteria on the outside of bell peppers that can cause major illness (and even death in rare cases) if the peppers are not thoroughly washed prior to serving raw or cooking. Apparently, this bacteria doesn't multiply in the presence of oxygen, but in its absence. (I think the word he used is anaerobic.) His cautionary (and apocryphal?) tale involved a couple of guys who were making sausage and peppers. They didn't wash the peppers -- just sliced them up with onions and poured a lot of oil over them to cook (yech - but technique isn't the issue here). Apparently they left the pepper/onion mixture out for a few hours, covered in oil, during which time this bacteria, which he likened to botulism, multiplied many times over. And the guys then reheated the whole deal with the sausages, ate it and later died.
My thinking is that, if this were such a potential disaster, why doesn't everyone know about it? Like we know about the salmonella dangers related to chicken and raw eggs.
Does anyone have any input on the subject?
I'm no expert, but botulism is bred in low-acid, low-oxygen environments. The Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) has fact sheets on all kinds of food borne pathogens. It is my impression that pathogens are always present, either in the soil, on humans, or on the food itself. They are in harmless numbers typically, but they are ready for auspicious conditions in which they can multiply. What's truly evil is that unsafe foods do not necessarily taste wrong. That's why procedure is so important; you must deny opportunity to the enemy at every turn.