July 16, 2024

Even the Pros Do It: Notable Food Safety Mistakes

As an advocate for food safety, I’m always on the lookout for dangerous cooking practices. I ask for well-done burgers at restaurants, I ask if the steak I’ve ordered is blade- or mechanically-tenderized, and I always order (and cook) eggs over hard or scrambled to 165 degrees F.

Petri DishIt’s especially difficult to see prominent chefs and cookbook authors disregard food safety rules. There are three recent notable food safety mistakes made by experts in the past few days.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, The New York Times printed an article titled Mayonnaise: Oil, Egg, and a Drop of Magic. It should have been titled Mayonnaise: Oil, Egg, and a Drop of Salmonella. The article gave detailed instructions about how to prepare mayonnaise at home, which is of course delicious. But there was not one word on using pasteurized eggs; in fact, the article urges people to use raw eggs.

According to the CDC, raw and undercooked eggs are implicated in 80% of all Salmonella enteritidis outbreaks where a food source is identified. Eggs are contaminated in the chickens before the shell is formed, because bacteria are in hen’s ovaries. In fact, as of September 4, 2001, all packages of unpasteurized raw shell eggs sold in this country must carry this statement: SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: Keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs throughly.

On Good Morning America this morning, Emeril Lagasse made that same mistake, singing the praises of homemade mayonnaise made with raw egg.

He also made burgers without using a food thermometer to check the final temperature.

During the spot, he handled the raw meat, then picked up toasted buns, lettuce, tomato, and onions without washing his hands. He also touched the cooked burgers without washing his hands.

In other words, he contaminated the finished product with bacteria from the raw meat, which is the number one concern about grilling foods at home, according to food safety experts such as Anna Schmitt Reichert, Director of Communications for NSF International. One recent study found that 88% of all ground beef is contaminated with at least one type of bacteria.

And then Emeril offered it to the host to eat, with the crowd cheering him on.

Piling uncooked sprouts on one burger was yet another mistake.

Finally, in the May issue of¬†Food Network Magazine, Ina Garten gives her “greatest cooking tip of all time”: Let eggs stand out at room temperature overnight before baking. Which will let any bacteria in those eggs grow to massive amounts, since after two hours at room temperature, bacteria numbers double every 15 to 20 minutes in perishable foods. And since some bacteria produce toxins that are not destroyed by heat, even if you cook those eggs thoroughly, you could still get sick.

If you want to use room temperature eggs for baking, put them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes. They’ll be the perfect temperature, and bacteria counts will be held down.

Any chef, cookbook author, or food expert in the public eye should make sure that food safety rules are followed to the letter every time a recipe is written or demonstrated. More than 48,000,000 Americans suffer food poisoning every year, more than 100,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. And many of those sickened  suffer lifelong consequences of those illnesses. Professionals in the public spotlight have a responsibility to make sure their recipes and cooking advice are safe.


  1. Jonathan Bentley says

    Lets face it. people have to be held accountable for their decisions. this is not on the farmer. this is on the consumer.
    They are consciously making this decision to use raw eggs. therefore they must deal with the consequences that are inherent to this risky practice.

    • Linda Larsen says

      Well, no. Producers have the responsibility, both legally and ethically, to produce safe food. While the consumer is the last line of defense in producing food that is safe to eat, manufacturers and farmers have a legal duty to sell food that is not contaminated with pathogens. If they don’t, they are guilty of negligence and breach of warranty. When someone sells a product, the purchaser has a reasonable expectation that it is not contaminated with something that may kill them. If chicken farmers cannot produce a safe product, then eggs should be labeled with warnings about how they could kill you if not handled perfectly.

Report Your Food Poisoning Case

Error: Contact form not found.


Home About Site Map Contact Us Sponsored by Pritzker Hageman, P.A., a Minneapolis, MN law firm that helps food poisoning victims nationally.