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Sep 13, 2010 11:20 PM

Sous Vide Illegal in Pa?

I was looking at the health inspection report for a well known Philadelphia restaurant and saw that it was cited because "Fresh fish and other seafood items are being processed using reduced oxygen packaging." Does this mean that sous vide is prohibited in Pennsylvania?

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  1. A comment from those inspecting wouild be of value here, obviously. It would also be interesting to know what restaurants in Philadelphia are employing this controversial technique. I for one would choose to avoid foods prepaired this way even if the method was deemed safe and taste enhancing; which has been a matter of debate for years.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Bacchus101

      "I for one would choose to avoid foods prepared this way even if the method was deemed safe and taste enhancing"


      1. re: barryg

        Perhaps I am too conservative in my attitudes toward food and methods employed. It is a personal choice as those who will not eat "deep fried food" or raw foods. Also the method is unappealing to me. And then if it was declared safe; who made that judgement and how.

        1. re: Bacchus101


          Anyway I found this discussion on eGullet that sheds some light:

          What I take from that is that sous vide is indeed legal, but requires a lot of paperwork to get approval for--and happens to not be regulated well, especially in Phila.

          The bigger restaurants and restaurant groups can probably handle the regulations easily, while other places are probably doing it quietly and for the most part getting away with it--cruz's post hints at this. However, since the specific food safety guidelines are not handed down by the regulators, the safety seems suspect in either case to me.

          1. re: barryg

            I'm curious about what the concerns are here. It sounds like there is some question about the safety of the food once it's prepared sous-vide. What are the risks?

              1. re: barryg

                Ah thanks Barry. So it's basically the same concern as for canning food, which makes sense since it's almost the same idea. I guess I never thought of it that way before.

      2. re: Bacchus101

        Well, Bacchus, you will certainly have trouble finding a place to eat in Philly if you plan to avoid sous vide food. I know for a fact that Morimoto, Le Bec-Fin, Lacroix, Noble, Tinto, Chifa, Amada, and Distrito all sous vide, as well as SnackBar -- and that's not even my entire list. I can state this with ABSOLUTE certainty; I've been cooking professionally in Philly for years and have witnessed this occur in these kitchens or else my employees have worked there.

        1. re: BewilderedLineCook

          The problem is "How many commercial kitchens operate with the discipline and precision of a laboratory, with its exacting timing, temperatures and cleanliness standards?" Hmmmmm.

          1. re: BewilderedLineCook

            Dear Bewildered, Thanks for your ABSOLUTE certainty on this issue. I am sure if I do limit my selections to items not prepared in this manner, if the server knows; i might still be able to eat in Philly. Or perhaps it is a moot point whereas I have been eating at the aforementioned establishments frequently without concern or dissatisfaction or illness. We all have experienced a kitchen's failure with standard methods. As osprey suggests there certainly are additional opportunities for error with this method. This is a very old debate and should I have an informed choice it would be to avoid this process.

            1. re: Bacchus101

              seems pretty simple then--ask before you order.

        2. Cruz - Not sure if the technique is legal in Philly, but it appears to be legal in the state of PA (or at least the burbs). There was a restaurant in Cedars, near Skippack, that specialized in sous vide preperation. A few limited menu as you can imagine, and changed weekly. Was an excellent concept, and also a phenomenal restaurant. Unfortunately it has since closed – not due to the food, but I presume due to location and limited menu; only one ‘protein’ served per week. I sincerely hope the chef, Greg, resurfaces with the same concept!
          Therefore, the technique doesn’t seem to be illegal, and at least the times we had visited was not highly regulated. Though in my opinion was very safe and well controlled. Loved the concept so much I am pondering buying or making my own unit.

          Some links about Restaurant Rosalie for your reference:

          2 Replies
          1. re: EpicurBurbs

            I'm not sure about Rosalie, but the Pennsylvania Department of Health's regs are uniform throughout the state. A month after the restaurant to which I referred was cited, I ate there and they were still serving the salmon sous vide (and it was delicious).

            So, at least some restaurants seem to simply ignore the citation. It doesn't seem as if that violation is sufficent to have the Health Department shut the place down (at least until someone dies of botulism).

            1. re: Cruz

              Cruz, I found the report you are referring to and the comments on the sous vide violation cite statue 46.402 - Reduced Oxygen Packaging, which is the relevant regulation.

              For the most part, it confirms the link I posted above--sous vide is allowed if proper paperwork is submitted and guidelines are followed. However, one of the subsections states: "Except for fish that is frozen before, during and after packaging, a food facility may not package fish using a reduced oxygen packaging method."

              So it appears that cooking fresh fish sous vide is not allowed in PA, and this is specifically what the restaurant has been cited for (their 2nd such "warning," btw).