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"Cross contamination!" "Cross contamination!" "Cross contamination!" "ZOMG!!! Cross contamination!"

Am I the only one who's tired of hearing a hundred voices join in a chorus of, "We must be careful of cross contamination!" every time chicken is mentioned anywhere? It seems like every Youtube video that I watch, every cooking show, and every post I read online that mentions chicken must be assaulted with a cacophony of fear-tinged commentary about cross contamination.

Honestly, is there anyone on the planet who isn't aware of the dangers of cross contamination at this point? Doesn't anyone else find this tedious and redundant at best, and annoying at worst? Indeed, some of my relatives won't even eat chicken or turkey anymore unless it's bone dry and utterly disgusting. I wanted to make a duck curry for some friends of mine but they cringed at the medium-rare consistency of it, so I had to cook it to a disgusting and chewy well done. Cooking poultry has degenerated from fun to laborious for me: I'd rather just avoid it in lieu of other meats these days.

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  1. Blame the lawyers for the litigious climate we live in and all the frivolous lawsuits overwhelming our court systems.

    btw....get any good Thai inspired cookbooks for Christmas

    1 Reply
    1. re: fourunder

      Nah. I think most court systems are overwhelmed by no real increase in funding in 10-15 years. And most of us rotten lawyers actually settle most of our cases most of the time.

      Vorpal, I think most Americans are so used to eating crappy, contaminated chicken that we're jumpy. It's too bad. I think if the food supply was safer, you'd have an easier time feeding folks good poultry.

    2. Two words: Chicken soup.
      Boil the dickens out of it and let them eat bread.....
      With wonderful butter, of course. Love the dunking part.
      hAPPY nEW yEAR.

      1. "but they cringed at the medium-rare consistency of it" - obviously there are numerous items that not everyone is aware of (medium rare chicken?)...

        but maybe that recipe came from one of those gifts you love to throw in the closet.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jfood

          My own personal recipe: a homemade Thai red curry with duck.

        2. I'll happily eat some of that duck curry, medium rare and all. Yum.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Emmmily

            Thank you! *grins* The sauce (I pound my own curry paste out) turned out delightful. The duck was nearly inedible at well done (even the guests who requested it so agreed on that point), unfortunately, but they all dug their spoons in to devour the curry itself!

          2. Actually, I get a good laugh whenever a TV "chef" handles chicken, touches just about every surface in the kitchen, THEN gives their hands a quick rinse while making the "cross-contamination speech." What a hoot!

            1 Reply
            1. re: pikawicca

              I always laugh over that also. If they did a "proper" wash the show would go from 30 to 60 minutes :)

            2. But think of all those who benefit from these fears. For one, cutting board sellers who've convinced us that we need separate boards for every item in order to avoid the dreaded CROSS CONTAMINATION. And so on.

              I have managed to survive lo these many decades using boards indiscrimately, thawing chicken on the counter while I am away at work, and generally allowing food to sit out without worrying about it.

              8 Replies
              1. re: tcamp

                Hear, hear! I have never gotten food poisoning (to my knowledge) from home cooking, and I've happily left chicken on the counter thawing for several hours, and used the chicken cutting board (washing it after chopping chicken on it) for other kitchen duties.

                Another reason people aren't typically allowed in my kitchen: too much fuss about such things, in my opinion.

                1. re: tcamp

                  I have gotten sick from thawed on the counter chicken.

                  OTOH, we use one cutting board for everything-chop fruits and veggies on it before you chop the meat, and then toss it in the dishwasher that gets the environment hot enough to kill any common bacteria.

                  1. re: tcamp

                    Heck, I grew up in a time when mothers used wooden cutting boards all the time and wiped our hands and faces after supper with the dishcloth. None of us died.

                    1. re: KristieB

                      Boy, that brings back memories. And you had to hope the dishcloth hadn't been sitting around for a while.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        My favourite was the 'spit wash with a dirty kleenex from the bottom on the purse'.

                        1. re: Sooeygun

                          The dirty kleenex was a nice touch, wasn't it. Still can't stand the taste or smell of Dentyne (there was only cinnamon then).

                      2. re: KristieB

                        But I bet your mum boiled the dish clothes when she washed them, non of these disposable ones that sit around festering.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          Bleached and washed in hot water, never boiled.

                    2. Easy. I've stopped eating North American chicken. No more fears of CROSS CONTAMINATION!
                      Who knows where the evil of cross contamination lurks?
                      Chowhounds know!
                      Cross contamination almost sounds sacrilegious. Who knows when the Spanish Chowhound will stirke?
                      Happy Silly New Year!

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        No one expects the Chicken Inquisition!

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          Have to confess that when I cook my local, pastured, organic chickens from a farm I visit frequently, I under cook it just a tad, so it's still a bit pink at the joints. It is so juicy and tasty, that I've convinced myself that it's safe. I may be deluding myself, but I'm not planning to change.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            "A little pink at the joints" is plenty cooked enough. Stuffing and cavity liquids are another story. Make sure they're over 150 for at least 10 minutes. But chicken meat that's raw enough to harbor salmonella is downright nasty. Just say no to medium-rare chicken and you'll be fine. No need to overcook the bird.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Maybe I'm thinking something different than you when I talk about medium rare chicken - and really, I'm not sure at all what the scale for doneness of chicken is; the scale for beef is inconsistent enough - but I find what I think of as medium rare chicken to be delicious.

                            2. re: pikawicca

                              I contest the idea that chickens are inherently disease harboring salmonella factories. The contamination problem comes from the chickens being raised in unsanitary conditions, and unhygenic practices at factory slaughterhouses.

                              To illustrate, if Farmer Bob is raising chickens on his farm, and the chickens run around free, and he kills the chicken that day with a clean knife, and he eats it that evening-- risk of "cross contamination" is negligible.

                              My wife grew up in a small village in Taiwan, and was a amused by my western obsession with washing my hands after handling chicken. Her mom works in a local outdoor market, where the people next to her veg stand sell freshly killed chickens, head still attached and flopping off the side of the table. No refrigeration until they got it home. They eat these chickens regularly, and the reason nobody gets sick is because these chickens were killed hours earlier by hand, and were all sold by the end of the day.

                              Not so for the vast majority of unsanitary chicken sold in the US, and so we are forced to obsess about cross contamination.

                              It's funny how people get grossed out by a fresh dead chicken on a table, but willingly eat a hacked up chicken which has been sitting around for days if not weeks.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                MT, I think you've made a number of excellent points. Thanks.

                          2. I still don't understand people who like overcooked food (ie boil the crap out of it, dump the water, put on plate and oversalt--wait, that's how much of the food in my area actually IS served in restaurants).

                            Cooked properly doesn't have to be dry, chewy, etc. If that's what people think they ought to eat for safety reasons, I would recommend becoming a fructarian. Wait, that might be bad too, just in case the fruit was touched by someone or something. Better serve a side of bleach with that apple.

                            If my friends didn't like the duck, I'd have more for me and something else for them. It's a shame to overcook duck.

                            1. Vorpal,
                              I agree with you completely. The paranoia is reaching epidemic proportions. Having gone through about 45 years of cooking (I'm 58) without contracting food poisoning from the way I handle or cook poultry, I think I'll just keep on doing what I have been doing. And cooking chicken, duck, or turkey until it's leather, just isn't my style.

                              AlanBarnes, I agree with you about the stuffing and cavity liquids. Get them up to 150 for at least ten minutes and you're good to go.

                              Pickawicca, I too, am amazed by what the Food Network chefs do about washing their hands after handling poultry. I guess the constraints of time require it, but the message that it sends to relatively uninformed home cooks is that that that sort of perfunctory hand washing is sufficient. (And remember, I'm a guy who thinks all of this paranoia about poultry is balderdash. But a good handwashing is one thing I do support!)

                              I'm also sorry to see this same paranoia being transferred to the subject of eggs, where the fact is that the surface of commercial eggs is scrupulously disinfected before being shipped to your local grocery store. I've forgotten the statistics on eggs internally infected with salmonella, but I recall that the once figured out that, at the rate I eat eggs in any form, I would probably eat one to two infected eggs in my entire life. I'll take my chances that those particular eggs will turn out to be used in an uncooked form, and I'll continue to make eggnog with raw eggs for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day, not to mention raw egg dips with hot sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, chopped green onions and pepper, the way my friends in Singapore taught me to make it. (And I never saw any of them getting sick!)

                              Okay, this turned out to be more of a rant than I anticipated, but I just want to say that you're right on, Vorpal!

                              44 Replies
                              1. re: gfr1111

                                I consider something a rant only when someone disagrees with me :) You are right-on!

                                1. re: jfood

                                  Somewhere between 1:10,000 and 1:30,000 eggs is infected with salmonella, and there's not a 1:1 correlation between eating an infected egg and developing salmonellosis. So the risk of illness from eating a raw egg is pretty slim in the first place. But then there's the fact that every raw egg recipe I make calls for whisking the egg with an acid - lemon juice, vinegar, etc. - which drops the pH to a point that bacteria can't survive, let alone thrive.

                                  If you're worried about contamination, though, raw eggs aren't the only problem. You can only assume that an egg has been pasteurized by heat when the yolk is completely hard. And the pH of plain eggs is very slightly alkaline, so you haven't taken any steps to chemically kill the bacteria, either. But would you seriously claim that serving a breakfast guest an over-easy egg is "so moronic that it is frightening"?

                                  As for me, I will continue to serve my guests homemade mayonnaise and salad dressings that contain raw eggs. I'll even expose them to the far greater risk posed by cooked eggs with runny yolks. Others may make different decisions.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    I'd like to point out to Vorpal that there's quite a wide middle ground between rare and cooked to smithereens. It almost sounds like you're trying to punish somebody for not wanting to eat rare poultry by deliberately overcooking it? I hope that isn't the case, you don't seem the vengeful type.
                                    FWIW- It has nothing to do with fear of salmonella when I say that undercooked poultry is awful to me- the texture/mouth feel is the main culprit, I think, and I find it truly disgusting. Pure personal preference.

                                    Your'e correct in your assessment of group hysterical paranoia regarding cross-contamination, but I'm routinely horrified watching Food Network show hosts' extremely widespread, shamelessly cavalier lack of handwashing and failure to follow sanitation guidelines- and it's much better than it used to be. I worked in operating rooms for years, and you had better get sterile/aseptic technique down immediately or risk being maimed or killed by a surgeon (very slight exaggeration). What I'm saying is there's a ton of dilettantes out there that would be the germ police that have no idea what they're talking about- they've been spooked by the media and sellers of sterilize-your-environment-or-die products.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      Thanks for this egg info. I'm delighted to learn about the low risk of raw egg and, in particular, the ameliorative effect of acid. I've been so worried about poisoning others that I'd all but given up raw egg emulsions except when dining solo or with the occasional kindred spirit. I'll be citing you from here to kingdom come, AB!

                                    2. re: gfr1111

                                      If you feel comfortable serving potentially healt hazards to your self and guests, please go right ahead.

                                      But calling those of us PARANOID who are careful and follow the guidelines set forth in safe food handling guidelines, taught in some of the best cooking schools in the country is inflamatory, uncalled for, condescending and denegrates those unfortunate people who actually suffer from this psychological malady.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        "follow the guidelines set forth in safe food handling guidelines, taught in some of the best cooking schools in the country"

                                        It would be interesting to know whether these are guidelines based on a balanced scientific assessment and the careful assessment of risk versus guidelines based on risk aversion and fear of legal liabilities. For example, a hamburger cooked rare is going to be fine, especially if made from fresh ingredients and prepared and handled competently. But risk averse guidelines will see so many potential risks that the "safest" advice is to only serve well done hamburgers.

                                        If I could be confident that food safety messages were free from this ultra conservative, risk adverse, mindset I would pay them more attention. However, that isn't what I see. Instead I see guidelines that are very short and simple, dumbed down to the lowest common denominator of consumer, and thus highly conservative.

                                        OK on the longer, more intense courses, the best cooking schools may have time to get into basic microbiology, a reasonable level of food science, and techniques to minimise rather than eliminate risk in order to educate their graduates. But when this info is distilled into the 30 second sound bite at the start of a short session or program it loses a lot. And food wisdom delivered via sound bite will lead to poorer food.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          As jfood has stated continually...if people want to eat raw eggs, raw meat, leave lasagne out for three days and then eat it, then that is their choice. Jfood is a firm believer in people making their own decisions.

                                          But for those of us who feel that this approach is not what they want to do, jfood expects the same. Calling us conservatives paranoid is as bad as us calling the other point of view idiots. No need for name calling.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Agree on the name calling and didn't think I was.

                                            Free choice is fine, and personal taste and preference is sacrosanct. BUT, and it is a very important but, free choice can only be exercised if the information that helps make the choice is factually correct and not biased. My concern is the "health & safety" culture and litigious nature of societies leads to disinformation. Or to be more precise, very narrow, highly conservative information i.e. you can never PROVE something is safe, yet it is easy to demonstrate a minor risk. The "sound bite" culture necessitates that information is shortened to the the extent that there are no longer any "ifs, buts, whys, and therefores" thus much information and knowledge that informs choice is lost.

                                            So if your choices and decisions on food are based on taste, personal health issues etc. then that is fine. But if your decision to not eat a dish with say: raw eggs e.g a chocolate mousse, or fresh mayonnaise, or softly poached eggs; or raw meat e.g. steak tartare, carpaccio or shashimi is solely based on highly conservative, very risk adverse, experts who are paranoid about litigation then that is quite sad. After all the better decisions are generally made with better information.

                                            1. re: PhilD

                                              I think the big problem most folks have is a tendency to either generalize the risk assessment or mis-assess the risk as either inappropriately low or high. As has been quite accurately pointed out, the risk from eggs, used raw or undercooked at home containing salmonella is quite low. Even if you are scrambling and soft cooking them. Now, you change the risk assessment if you pool 20 - 30 eggs for a big brunch group and let them sit by or near a warm stove cooking them in batches. Add even more risk if you soft scramble them and hold them at a low temperature for an hour or two. Change the conditions and you change the risks.

                                              Ok, now let's jump to a whole new level or risk assessment. Fast food restaurant pools a big old vat of 1000+ eggs to scramble at 5:00 am, they sit on the shelf above the grill until the breakfast service is over at 11:00. The portion is dipped out and cooked on the griddle. During the morning rush, the egg "pucks" don't get cooked quite well enough. Not cooked to rubber and not still runny but quite definitely underdone. Only one of the original eggs had salmonella and it didn't start out with a lot of bugs but by the time they ended up in the consumers guts, there were enough of them to make a lot of folks quite ill.

                                              The real risk is time and temperature abuse, in my example , any cross contamination issue is only really important if one side of the contamination or the the other has time or temperature abuse that is in the zone. Like the abused egg getting on the food handler's hands and then slicing tomatoes and lettuce for the lunch burgers. If the eggs that were abused get properly cooked, then the egg risk drops to nil, but the raw produce risk goes up, and it was clean to begin with (we're assuming.)

                                              Folks need enough information and should go get it in order to make rational, informed, decisions about the level of risk they are willing to accept. Having spent 5 years coordinating the USDA's month long, extremely intensive Food Safety Eduction Program and having a compromised immune system, I don't typically fool around with high risk behaviors. But I'll eat eggs over easy and I love sushi and medium rare steaks because I know what the risks are. Medium rare hamburger, nope, leaving stew on the stove without refrigeration and just reheat it for days, no way, dented cans maybe...did I dent them or did they come off the shelf that way, how acidic or basic are the contents? You get the picture.

                                              See the reason why most of the recommendations are so generalized and overarching is that, unless you know what is important to facator in to your risk level, no one can tell you, sure, go ahead, leave it out to thaw on the counter all day, it will be fine. Well, maybe so and maybe not. Was it temperature abused by the processor, the shipper, the market, you before you froze it and now want to thaw it? Is it 90 or 60 in you house during the day? How cooked it it going to end up? Change any one of these and the risk assessment changes dramatically. the final assessment has to be how bad would it be for you if you get sick. Are we talking, that it's likely to put you in the hospital? Can you afford to be out for 2-4 days with what one of our microbiology instructor/profs called a "two bucket disease?" If you answer no, then your level of acceptable risk will be different than someone elses. Which is shy we should expect and hold professional kitches, food producers and food processors to a higher level of risk management - I don't want them setting my acceptable level of risk without my knowledge.

                                              Know the truth and the truth really will set you free, to chow down safely.

                                                1. re: aggiecat

                                                  Aggie, you make excellent points. It is shame food safety education is so generalised that so few people have the knowledge to start to apply the principles you outline.

                                                  The one area I would disagree is your last point. Whilst I agree that mass catering and food production needs the highest standards, it becomes a problem when the standards become homogenised i.e. the same rules apply to an industrial cheese producer producing 100 of tons a days as to an artisan who produces small batches of craft cheese. The risk factors are different but the rules/laws are uniform. The result is usually homogenised, pasteurised, characterless food.

                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                    Absolutely, although I'm still not totally comfortable with the idea of eating unpasturized cheeses :) But local cheese, oh I wish we could get more of that 'round here. I've even been toying with trying my hand at cheese making. but my DH won't let me start any new projects until I finish at lease a few of the half done ones I have. He can be such a party pooper.

                                                    1. re: aggiecat

                                                      We lived in France for a few years and I can't eat pasteurised cheese now...! Un-pasteurised tasted so much better.

                                                      My problem is now we are in Australia you can't get un-pasteurised cheese, apparently because of health and food safety issues. But the consensus amongst cheese lovers is the big dairy companies can produce cheaper cheese in computer controlled factories rather than have the hassle of the artisan approach and the art of dealing with a "live" product.

                                                      Thus a strong industry lobby to keep the ban on un-pasteurised cheese, now the US and other countries have lighten the regulations we hope Australia will follow suit. .

                                                  2. re: aggiecat

                                                    Very well said. The real problems in food safety are not bacteria but ignorance tinged with wishful thinking and hoping. A more scientifically educated and less politically influenced populace would be helpful.

                                                    1. re: aggiecat

                                                      I have a friend who got salmonella from eating something in a restaurant (probably chicken) and even after she recovered fromt he very acute stage (which was touch and go for a little while) she couldn't eat chicken/dairy/eggs/other stuff for about 6 months. It's just not worth the risk to not at least attempt to do the right thing.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                A couple of days ago, I would have been silly on this thread and used the 'magic kitchen' reference. Today, after a 48-hour bout of horrible,disgusting illness (which I blame on my blithe disregard for food safety in not washing the cutting board between 'chops' and letting the chicken broth cool on the counter far longer than it should have) I am a 'better safe than sorry' convert.

                                                Like ya told me before, dude - it's just food! We are all fortunate to have enough resources to actually worry about this, and to be able financially to toss food that we think might be contaminated. I've learned (the hard way) to live on the safe side.

                                                More ginger ale for me now - Peace.

                                                1. re: southern_expat

                                                  jfood apologizes for laughing as he read your post, not fair to laugh at other's misfortunes.

                                                  Jfood also fought a slight battle with a minor case of stomach disruption from some not so great tuna last week. As he stared at the appetizers and sae tuna again tonight he ordered the crabcake.

                                                  Welcome to the dark side and feel better.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Don't apologize - laugh away, dude! I sure am! It's been a tough couple of days, but boy, did I learn my lesson!. I feel tons better now (thanks for the commiseration) and will never, ever look at raw chicken the same way again.

                                                    I think my brother can get me some of those lead-lined gloves that nuclear physicists use.

                                                    1. re: southern_expat

                                                      That's the way I feel about the US made peanut butter that I got salmonella from three plus years ago. So did Veggo.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        To get to my sister's house, you have to go through the town where the (now closed) peanut processing plant responsible for that outbreak is located. The times we went through there before the news about the outbreak got out, we always thought it weird that the county health department there had up this giant billboard about proper hand-washing right before you hit downtown.

                                                        I dunno, maybe they suspected something.

                                                  2. re: southern_expat

                                                    Out of curiosity, where did your chicken come from? Supermarket, poultry shop, or farm? Was it conventionally raised? Who killed it?

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      A friend of mine (a food professional) gave the entire family horrible food poisoning with an improperly-handled chicken from their own backyard. It can happen to anyone, with almost any ingredients.

                                                      1. re: dmd_kc

                                                        Sure, but the exception just proves the rule.

                                                        Mr Taster

                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                          Um, no. The "exception" (not) just shows that salmonella enteritidis is not uncommon even among small-scale poultry producers. I'll leave it to the epidemiologists to crunch the numbers, but the fact is that the bug is just filling a recently-available niche in the ecosystem.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            No, this is one example of one person experiencing this problem one time. Hardly the case for proving the "rule" that chickens are inherently toxic salmonella breeding hosts which will cause all of humanity's bowel disruption and send immodium stocks soaring. But that's fine, because you could make the argument that the lack of any illness experienced by my wife, inlaws and their friends eating unrefrigerated, freshly killed chicken from a local vendor throughout their lifetime as also not proving anything, because it is not a scientific study across a statistically accurate representation of poultry farms and families in Taiwan.

                                                            My main point in bringing this up was to indicate that this rule of chicken-paranoia-wash-your-hands-immediately-or-die-horribly is not a universal axiom, but rather one specific to our culture.

                                                            Mr Taster

                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                              Unrefrigerated? Not a problem. Freshly killed? Good. Less chance for colonies of bacteria to get established and grow. Local vendor? Ditto.

                                                              The reason that the concern about cross-contamination from raw poultry is limited to recent times and industrialized nations is that salmonellosis from poultry products is a recent phenomenon created by advanced veterinary practices.

                                                              It used to be that the most common strain of salmonella found in chickens was s. gallinarum. It causes poultry typhoid, which used to be a significant problem for chicken farmers. But it isn't transmissible to humans.

                                                              Nowadays we've pretty much gotten rid of s. gallinarum in chickens, thus preventing losses from typhoid. But that has opened an ecological niche in which s. enterica - the bug that gives humans salmonellosis - thrives.

                                                              Unlike e. coli, which is limited to the intestinal tract, s. enterica can cause a systemic infection in a chicken. So careful slaughter and butchering aren't guaranteed to eliminate the risk.

                                                              If chicken farmers in Taiwan still have flocks that are vulnerable to typhoid, then odds are that those birds don't carry s. enterica. But in every place that s. gallinarum has been eliminated, s. enterica is a legitimate threat.

                                                              That's not to say that hysteria is warranted. But it does make sense to take reasonable precautions.

                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                Alan is right. You can't trust a chicken just because it's from a small, local producer.
                                                                To start, local and small scale, in and of themselves, are almost completely meaningless. A small, local farm could be owned by someone who is every bit as dishonest and uncaring as the agribusiness owner, executive, or manager. He could be small and local simply because he's not a good enough businessman to have grown into an agribusiness.
                                                                It's also not at all unlikely that someone raising chickens in their backyard is an idiot, and has no idea how to raise a healthy chicken. I don't care if my best friend or the leader of the local slow food movement personally raised the chickens. Unless I've seen his methods first hand, or have really good reason to believe they are sound, I'm not putting my trust in them.
                                                                There are a lot of factors at play. How many chickens are in this operation? Where were they bred? How often does the farmer interact with them? How often is the chicken coop cleaned out? How often are new birds introduced to the flock? What breed are they? How many different breeds of chicken does he raise? What other animals do the chickens come in to contact with? How cold does the coop get at night? How much sunlight, exercise, and fresh air do the chickens get? What do they eat? Are they given any hormones or medications? Was there hormone or medication use at any point in their lineage, or are they descended purely from naturally raised stock? Were any of the animals in their lineage raised in battery cages, or overcrowded conditions? How often does the vet come by to check the flock (or at least the breeders) out? How much of an expert is the guy raising these birds? Where did he learn to raise chickens? This one might seem harsh, but, if he learned from a book, can I really trust his reading comprehension skills? Does he love food? Is he raising birds solely as an economic necessity, or does he really care about the quality of his product? How are the birds killed, and where?
                                                                There might be more, but if I don't know at least most of those things - which I can learn from a quick look around and a three minute conversation - I'm going to assume there's a realistic chance any meat I buy from him is infected with something, and take the appropriate precautions.
                                                                Even if I'm satisfied on all those points, there is always still going to be a remote chance of infection. But it's remote enough that I'm not going to panic about eating a little of the chicken medium rare.

                                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                                          I just wish that posters would get back to us so that we have a better idea of what went on.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            I agree, however one of the problems is that a persons suspicions about the source of an illness are often wrong. Unless you actually test the food it is difficult to isolate the cause. I could have been the food, or it could have been Norovirus from the public washroom after someone failed to wash their hands (trust me it feels a lot like very nasty food poisoning).

                                                            I think back to the big headlines surrounding the Fat Duck restaurant in the UK last year. Lots of "expert speculation" about all sorts of causal factors. In the end it was Oysters from an estuary with contaminated water. No way to tell, thus simply a risk of eating raw oysters.

                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                              Excellent point. All too often people are quick to blame the wrong thing (and I'm sure I'm guilty of that myself). Unless we have comprehensive testing of every food we've eaten and every surface we've touched, we'll never truly know the source of our illnesses. However, unless we become CDC statistics, we're not going to have everything tested.

                                                              I had an odd attack of illness in Cameroon last year (rather rapid progression from feeling pretty good to passing out, in about 5 min--my stomach had been rumbling a bit all day, but I'd not felt ill. I've blamed it on some lettuce that I ate (since it may or may not have been washed properly) but my conclusion may be completely incorrect.

                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                Ah, but that was a case of cross-contamination! The cause was so hard to track down to the oysters because diners who had not had any oysters were still getting ill. That shouldn't happen.

                                                                "But the report went on to claim that the outbreak continued for at least six weeks because of "ongoing transmission at the restaurant". This may have occurred through "continuous contamination of foods prepared in the restaurant or by person-to-person spread between staff and diners or a mixture of both".


                                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                  Atahualpa - this is an interesting one because the media reporting of the outbreak and the HPA's full reports conclusions are subtly different. It is also interesting to go back to the initial reporting of the outbreak when all sorts of reasons/sources of infection were cited - nearly all wrong.

                                                                  The conclusion of the HPA report is very clear it was Norovirus from Oysters, it also clearly states: "Diners who reported consumption of these shellfish dishes were more likely to report illness than those who did not consume shellfish." The report then goes on to say "Contamination of other food during preparation may have contributed to infection of diners" which is a fair point where Norovirus is concerned, but it is interesting they use the work "may" in this section as it infers a suspicion rather than a proven fact, unlike the more definite conclusion about oysters in the report.

                                                                  In this case it may not be cross-contamination from chopping board to chopping board, more likely it is infection from a person who has the Norovirus who will still be infectous once the obvious symptoms have passed (no pun intended). The report explicitly cites the alcohol hand gel used to clean hands as less effective than washing hands.

                                                                  It is a complex report, but the bottom line is that even the pro's can have problems. A poor ingredient is an obvious problem, care needs to be taken to avoid cross contanimation (especially for uncooked foods), and importantly it must be remembered that a person who had food poisoning recently could be as risky a source of infection as that badly handled chicken. Nothing beats good hand washing!

                                                                  As an aside a recent scientific study looked at the impact of hand washing on the spread of Swine Flu in the UK. There has been a big government campaign to stop transmission by getting people to wash their hands more frequently. The finding was that washing hands had little impact on flu transmission (because it is transmitted by air not hand to mouth contact) but there has been a clear and statistically significant decrease in reported food poisoning cases.

                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                    Interesting. My totally nonstatistical impression is that the increased emphasis on hand-washing has led to fewer things "going around" the office.

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        Jfood the BBC one is probably the link, I heard it discussed in more detail on the radio when Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame) where they discussed the data. Not certain if you can still get it as a podcast.

                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                          Thanks PhilD but jfood will continue to wash his hands, the key card he receives when he checks into a hotel and use a sanitizing wipe on the TV remote when he gets to his room whenever possible. If people want to eat raw chicken or take the chance, hey it's their bed rest.


                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            Nothing wrong with that.

                                                                            I do remember one of my first undergrad microbiology classes when we were sent out to take samples in order to find the worst places for bugs. We all headed for the toilets which surprisingly turned out to be comparatively "microbiolgicaly clean" when compared to other things...although we didn't do remote controls.

                                                                            Whilst the reports suggest the washing hands doesn't do much to stop the spread of flu, it does confirm that clean hands reduce the risk of food borne illness substantially. I know wash my hands frequently when cooking, rather than simply once before I start.

                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                              I wash my hands frequently when I'm cooking, too, as I use my hands a lot and they're always getting stuff on them. I rarely get any kind of intestinal illness (the only bad case of food poisoning I had was a few years ago, and I know exactly what caused it, as I suspected it was bad when I ate it. I should have paid less attention to the fact that I'd just bought it and it was in a sealed container than the fact that it smelled off and had bubbles in it). My sister (jlafler) recently took a biology class where they measured, among other things, the amount of bacteria on their hands, and her hands came up with a lot less bacteria than her classmates' because she's a diabetic and washes her hands before she tests her blood sugar several times a day (in addition to the usual times people wash their hands).

                                                                            2. re: jfood

                                                                              The TV remote is a particularly good idea for reasons best left unstated, I hadn't thought of that.

                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                Yeah...sorta like the verbiage at the beginning of the old Star Trek show, "Go where no man..."

                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                    PhilD your first paragraph says it all. So many people are so busy looking for something to blame for their illness. I've had coworkers I eat lunch with complain about the cafeteria where we eat making them "horribly sick" during the night. Well, at least two of the rest of us ate the same thing, and we're okay, which is not the way food poisoning works.

                                                                  3. re: c oliver

                                                                    Late reply - sorry, been busy. In retrospect, I can't BLAME the chicken or the stock, I just suspect them. Whatever it was made me sick, I will be much more cautious about food safety (all foods, not just chicken) and kitchen hygiene in future, because if I ever feel that sick again, I would rather just croak!

                                                                    MT - the chicken came from my local (quite reputable) butcher shop. I never thought to ask 'who killed it' ;-)

                                                                    When I'm home, I usually cook for just me, so I most often hand-wash the dishes instead of running them through the dishwasher. Maybe I was sloppy about that. Usually I wipe down the counters with the dishrag from washing dishes - now it's a spritz of clorox cleaner and a clean rag. I didn't sanitize my wooden cutting boards very well, and I've now purchased some plastic (or whatever they're made of) ones, and am now more careful with all of them.

                                                                    This may be getting away from 'cross-contamination' but the point is, I never want to be that ill again, I'm convinced that something in the kitchen made me sick, and I am gonna be more careful from now on. I've gotten a lot of good feedback and ideas from this thread, and I appreciate them!

                                                                    I did lose ten pounds when I couldn't eat much for three days, but I really don't recommend this weight-loss method! Peace!

                                                                2. re: southern_expat

                                                                  Ugh - I'm getting over something similarly vile. Even apple juice sent me into a tailspin yesterday. My neighbor tells me there's a tummy virus going around though so maybe it wasn't your doing.(?) I was all set to write off, for life, the good Portuguese chicken sandwiches from my local market before he told me.

                                                                  I'm a fanatic about kitchen prep and chicken: bleach, boiling water - the whole nine yards. I'm less careful about eating whatever crosses my path, so I deserve whatever I get there. But a circulating bug . . . that you don't even know is around . . . that's tougher. I hope you're feeling better soon.

                                                            2. When I lived in Australia I had no problems preparing, and cooking chicken. I favour wooden chopping boards when dealing with foods.
                                                              Now I live in a developing 3rd world country where freezers are turned off at night time to save power, I don't have hot water in my house, and the washing machines only have cold water, so you can't wash tea towls etc in hot water. So yesterday I roasted a chicken, I used about 2 paper towels to wipe up the benches, dry my hands etc and I had two showers and changed my clothing twice just to make sure I don't cross contaminate. I cooked that chicken till it was tough as nails, and the chicken pie is pertty average that I made out of it. But my husband and I are alive and well the next day. However I've got a bad feeling that the rubbish bin may have raw chicken in it, so when I haev a shower later today (when the hot water comes on) I'm going to put it in the shower with me to make sure it's clean.

                                                              I think I need to move back to Australia.

                                                              1. I buy the large size yogurt container - to scoop into smaller bowls, top with fruit, etc., because it was cheaper. But I was finding that it was getting kind of gloppy, soupy, whatever, after a couple of days. I finally figured out that the kids were 'double dipping' and eating directly out of the container, and the saliva on the spoon was causing the yogurt to break down. Disgusting, isn't it? Now I have 'my' yogurt and they have theirs....

                                                                12 Replies
                                                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                  So Jean you recommend the safest approach is to wash hands frequently and put the kids out for adoption...? :-)

                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                    But I was finding that it was getting kind of gloppy, soupy, whatever, after a couple of days. I finally figured out that the kids were 'double dipping' and eating directly out of the container, and the saliva on the spoon was causing the yogurt to break down

                                                                    That liquid is just the whey separating from the yogurt. This is normal. You can either pour it off or mix it back it in.

                                                                    1. re: al b. darned

                                                                      jeanmarieok, al is correct. It's cheesemaking 101.

                                                                      I once made fresh ricotta style cheese (curds and whey) by adding lemon juice to whole milk heated to 180 degrees. The acid in the lemon juice caused the milk solids to curdle and separate into a fresh cheese, leaving the thin whey as a byproduct. Just strain out the solids and voila, you've got cheese (and a whole lot of whey).

                                                                      Cutting into any curdled milk (including yogurt) releases liquid whey in much the same way. I promise you, it's not the kids saliva that's breaking down the yogurt. What you think is your kid's saliva is merely a natural part of the cheesemaking process. You could pour it off, but whey is very healthy and packed with protein. Don't waste it!

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        Actually, whey isn't very high in protein -- it has about a quarter of the protein of whole milk. Most of the protein is in the solids, while a lot of the milk sugar, which is water soluable, is in the whey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whey

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          Que? I'm not sure what you're referring to, Ruth... even the wikipedia article you quoted acknowledges the protein from whey is regularly consumed by bodybuilders (because it is more readily absorbed than other kinds of proteins like casein, the other milk protein that coagulates into curds during the cheesemaking process). In fact, true ricotta cheese is not made from whole milk, but rather by coagulating the remaining proteins from whey that has already been produced by cheesemaking (Even the word 'ricotta' is derived from the Latin word recocta, meaning re-cooked or cooked twice.) So I'm not entirely sure where you're coming from on this.

                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                            Eighty percent of the protein in milk is casein, which is nearly all in the solids. The whey liquid does contain very high quality proteins, but not in very large amounts. It is made into protein powder because the liquid itself isn't nutritionally valuable enough to be worth drinking. It is useful for making whey cheeses, but the most common thing, historically, to do with the liquid whey byproduct of cheese or strained yogurt making, aside from simply discarding it. was to use it as animal fodder. Whey fed pigs produce very fine hams, largely because of the sugar content of the whey.

                                                                            1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                                              What he said. ;-) Quality is not the same as quantity.

                                                                              Anyway, according to wikipedia (for what that's worth), whey has .8 grams of protein per 100 grams, and whole milk has 3.2 grams of protein per 100 grams.

                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                OK, so you're calling me out on the use of the word "packed". Alright, I'll redact that, although that was really incidental to the point I was trying to make... i.e. It's healthy, don't throw it awhey. (Ha!)

                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  I don't know about "healthy" -- it does, however, have some value.

                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                    Are you really calling me to task on my choice of the word "healthy" in this context? I shall from now on refer to you as Ruth Semantics Lafler! (RSL)

                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                      Sorry, I've been a professional wordsmith low these many years.

                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                        Ah, I understand that sort of affliction. I find it hard to hold back my opinions from those that bandy about obscure (and often irrelevant) internet acronyms.

                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                  2. FYI I'm really careful with my chicken, and have separate boards for stuff. But I only roast my chickens until they have a touch of pink at the joints, and am careful about washing everything up.

                                                                    Also, I use a lot of vinegar for clean up, not terribly fond of the smell but it's good at killing stuff, including mold. I use it the tenants bathrooms after they move out. How people can live with mold in their bathrooms is beyond me. BTW Bleach doesn't kill mold, it just lightens the stain. Sorry small rant...

                                                                    Basically I'm kind of a slob, but I am a very CLEAN slob :)

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                                      Bleach does kill mold, but only one non-porous surfaces (something about it not penetrating well). When my tenant moved out last year it took hours of scrubbing to get the mold out of the kitchen and bathroom -- it was disgusting, and I'm not clean freak. The worst part was moving the fridge and finding a huge patch of mold growing on the wall. Folks, you do need to move your fridge and clean behind it occasionally! And vacuum the coils while you're at it!

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        Oh yes. We just moved my MIL into assisted living. Behind a corner cupboard there was a HUGE area of black mold on two walls and the cabinet. The repair is going to involve cutting out the drywall out to two or three (can't remember) feet in all directions of the mold. Bleach would bleach it but not kill it. Quite a lesson for us.

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          Well a bleach solution will help keep the mold wet and not go flying off in dusty particles as you remove it. You just really want to keep it from spreading in the air. Once the surface mold is gone you can use a product specially designed to treat mold and kill it dead. Just watch out that the % of mold isn't so high that it requires professional abatement. It's also a sign that the rental unit/house rooms have air and moisture problems. You may need to spring to upgrade fans and vents so that they do a better job of removing moisture and humid air. Or look for small leaks where the mold is happening. Good luck, mold is no fun. We had to redo a bathroom surround do to leaks through the grout that caused mold. Ack, what a pain.

                                                                          1. re: aggiecat

                                                                            You people are scaring me. I opened the thread only because I washed my hands no less than four times after I prepared a roasted chicken (hey, there was a thawing bath involved, people), and I felt a little Adrian Monk-ish.

                                                                            Last fall, I moved into a new apartment. It is a fantastic place, with a beautiful kitchen. My landlord remodeled the kitchen before we moved in, and, in order to give us more cupboards and counter space, he came up with a creative solution. He took the closed pantry and wedged the fridge right in. He had to sand the doorway down in order for it to *just* fit. It was a Herculean effort by all accounts.

                                                                            At first, I loved that bit of ingenuity (the kitchen also has an open, auxiliary pantry that is more than adequate, and I had an amazing amount of room to cook in). I think it took, perhaps, a week for me to wonder, "Just how many dust bunnies are living under there?" After the first heat wave, I started to wonder about the condensation that normally occurs between cooling appliances and extreme heat in a place that has no central AC. And then I started to think of what occurs in a confined space that is smack damn in the middle of it.

                                                                            I suppose I'll soon be wedged on top of the fridge, flashlight in hand, peeking into the depths and reassuring myself. Or gasping in horror.

                                                                            1. re: onceadaylily

                                                                              Get some magic sliders at your hardware store. They are little disks with some kind of slippery stuff on the bottom. You put one under each of the four fridge legs and it slides out nice and easy for cleaning. Protects your floor from scratching too.

                                                                              1. re: cajundave

                                                                                Thanks. I'll ask my landlord if perhaps he did put such a thing under there, but it doesn't feel like it at all (we tried an experimental pull). It's wedged in that doorframe like sausage in a casing. I'll keep your suggestion in mind.

                                                                        2. re: cosmogrrl

                                                                          Actually bleach kills molds. However, bleach loses its effectiveness when applied on organic porous surfaces, like wood (as Ruth Lafler). The challenge is that bleach is very reactive. It reacts with the wood fibers as it seeps into the wood. In other words, the wood neutralizes the bleach avoiding it from penetrating through the wood and killing all the molds.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            Hey Chemicalkinetics,

                                                                            Sending a quick shout out to you because I'd love to get your opinion on this other thread re: using PVC and polyethylene in cheesemaking presses.


                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                        3. There are people who are unaware. I am teaching my 35 year old friend to cook. When we did chicken he was going to put the cooked chicken back on the same plate where the raw chicken had been without washing it.

                                                                          I no longer assume anything but try to avoid condescension as well.