April 12, 2011

TINY BUT DEADLY

Salmonella

This is a picture of the organism responsible for so much misery in so many people – salmonella.

The answer to the question I posed yesterday is :

Yes, we ate the cooked meat and enjoyed it.  I didn’t tell Nick about my misgivings until the next day when any risk of illness would have passed.

There has been paranoia about food poisoning in the UK ever since the South Derbyshire MP, Edwina Currie, announced on TV in 1988 that the whole of the British egg production was contaminated with salmonella.  Food poisoning has to be taken seriously as it doesn’t just cause a few hours’ misery – for some it is deadly.  Every so often there are reports in the media about scores of people dying as a result of eating contaminated food.

I was prepared to take the risk with my cooked meat on that day as I feel the problem is largely due to a combination of provenance and bad practice.  I guessed that the likelihood of a village butcher poisoning his customers was probably quite low.

On the other hand, if you get chicken from an unknown source you can’t be too careful, so if I buy supermarket chicken I stick firmly to the recommended rules.  Looking like a nerd who’s paranoid about food poisoning is one thing – looking like death with awful diarrhoea is worse.  But it’s all a question of balance.

The fondness of the French for raw or partly cooked meat is slightly unsettling, as is the general impression I have that some shops and restaurants don’t always seem to follow the practices that are very visible in the UK to prevent food poisoning.  We once stayed in a French hotel where there were two large tarts, one sweet, one savoury, on a side table in the restaurant all afternoon, uncovered by anything but the little swarms of flies that visited every few moments.  They were on the menu for dinner that evening.

Yet at an event I attended in the UK not long ago, all the food on the buffet was removed and disposed of once it had been on display for more than two hours.  The sublime to the ridiculous in terms of food hygiene but somewhere in between lies common sense.  Or is it training?

But then, even places that seem to have followed all the rules and regulations to the letter still poison people if something goes wrong.  And life is an adventure or nothing.  If I had never taken any risks in my life, I would not have had half the fun that I have so far.

On the other, other hand, it’s not  worth loading the odds against ourselves either.  So what ever seems right on the day is fine by me and if I come unstuck, tant pis.

9 comments:

  1. absolutely agree--look for the middle road and apply some plain common sense.

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  2. I read these two postings together so I missed the opportunity to comment before I knew the outcome! :-)

    You did what I thought but I have had to teach myself not to get too hung up about food hygeine of others. I am VERY particular about it myself but you'd never go anywhere if you worried too much about it.

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  3. The more I read about food hygiene the more I worry. When I cook meat for myself it is always overcooked, but if I go to a restaurant for a steak, I like it rare.

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  4. I'm jittery as well about uncooked meat and the handling of it as I cook it after years of worry drilled into me by the UK media. But I have managed not to get phobic!

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  5. And here I though this post would be about (French) mushrooms. There are mushrooms which will kill you quite quickly. If you're going to eat mushrooms, be careful!

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  6. Sometimes being too clean is where the problem is at. I once saw my mom washing her raw chicken with some special chicken soap in the USA...I prefer a few French germs to soap bubbles.
    Ps I've never had a food born illness after 20 years of eating in France, including raw eggs in mayo and mousse.

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  7. I have to agree that I usually take care with chicken. My beef though must be raw or bleu :-) Diane

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  8. Sensible advice Jean.

    I remember a post you did some time ago about toilet facilities within restaurants.

    Now if this could be sorted.......!

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  9. Yes, good common sense. It depends on circumstances too. I'm much more cautious if I'm serving food to the very young, the very old, pregnant women, anyone with a compromised immune system -- no raw or half-cooked eggs for example. But for healthy adults, anything goes :)

    Well, almost. I still remember the bout of dire food poisoning we suffered from on holiday in Germany after eating a ham sandwich in a hotel. Not an experience I would care to repeat. And in general I am picky about the provenance of my meat products -- I don't buy the battery chickens and prepackaged meat in supermarkets for example. Then again, when you eat in restaurants, you never know ...

    PS washing chicken with soap! Ugh.

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