The Hurdles for Food Safety and Molecular Gastronomy

My husband and I have an ongoing difference of opinion, to put it gently. Me, the obsessive about food safety and him, following in his mother’s footsteps of thawing the chicken on the kitchen counter and letting the food cool before it goes into the refrigerator (that must be a throwback to the days when you had to replenish the ice in the ice box, well before Freon and other refrigerants, he is, after all so much older than me). But food safety and food poisoning, or more correctly food born infection and intoxication have been making news way too much lately and so I am now in the lead in this argument. Actually, any mention of food recalls or food borne illness is too much. Training in the restaurant industry includes the rules of food safety and sanitation but the reality of day to day craziness in the back of the house can upset even the most fastidious amongst us. That’s where a broader understanding of the science of microbiology and especially the application of multiple “hurdles” for preventing the contamination or the products we prepare can better insure safe food always.

We don’t live and cook in sterile environments. The microbes that cause food borne illnesses are always present.
We control and limit the damages they can cause by making the environment in which they live as intolerable for them as possible. Temperature is one of the best hurdles we put in place to prevent them from growing; keeping hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F/ 60 degrees C) and cold foods cold (less than 40 degrees F/ 4 degrees C). Limiting the water content of foods is another very effective hurdle but one which is less widely used as there are not that many ingredients we can use to tie water up so it is unavailable for microbial growth. Sugars, especially dextrose & fructose, work very well but not every food is sweet. Salt works great as well but by the time the salt content is high enough for the microbes to not tolerate it, most people wouldn’t tolerate eating the food. Time is yet another hurdle for limiting contamination. Putting multiple hurdles in place provide layers of protection for your products. I don’t have time to go into more depth this time but watch my blog and I will continue to write on this subject over the next several weeks.

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