Rob Mancini: Why do folks insist on providing bad food safety advice?

Our resident non-aging television personality and food safety dude, Rob Mancini, writes Inside Edition’s Chief Investigative Correspondent and food safety expert knocked on the doors of random homes in Los Angeles to conduct surprise kitchen inspections. Homes were graded as either A (good) to C (bad). They also provided food safety tips for homeowners. In 2005, as part of my show, Kitchen Crimes for the Food Network (Canada) and HGTV (US), we looked at food safety in residential homes in Canada  and found some pretty incredible things. While I appreciate the concept of a food safety expert going into peoples’ homes and inspecting for food violations, I’m not sure if I agree with their tips. Tips below: 1. Check cutting boards for grooves from your knives. Those small crevices can house some dangerous bacteria. If you see grooves, throw it out. 2. To prevent cross-contamination, store raw meat, fish and poultry on the bottom shelf of your fridge, below your prepared and ready-to-eat food. 3. Store food in plastic containers with tight lids or wrap tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep out bacteria, both in and out of the refrigerator. 4. Even a dishwasher gets dirty. Keep your dishwasher clean and free of food particles by wiping it down with distilled bleach and occasionally run an empty load with bleach instead of dish soap. 5. Set aside one day of the month to check expiration dates, especially meat, seafood, produce, eggs and dairy – expired foods can contaminate your safe food. 6. After preparing a meal, especially meat, wipe down surfaces with distilled bleach. 7. Regularly empty your refrigerator and wipe down the surfaces with distilled bleach – especially those lower shelves where you store your meats. When Powell sent me this article last night, one of the first things I did this morning was pass along these tips to some of my fellow homeowner friends to get their thoughts. First thing out of their mouths was “What….distilled bleach, what is a homeowner going to do with this tip?? What does this even mean?  Do I need to wear gloves?  Do I dilute it?” Precisely… bad food safety tip.  Kinda’ like using the term piping hot for internal food temperatures. Do not use distilled bleach, scrub your food contact surfaces with soap and water and rinse. The trick is to use friction when cleaning to dislodge bacteria and other like organisms off the surface. If you are adamant on using a sanitizer, try vinegar, worked for our ancestors. Now onto cutting boards, every cutting board has grooves and even if they don’t, bacteria can still be embedded in some sort of fashion. Bacteria are small and even a freshly planed cutting board, whether it is plastic or wood, is not perfectly smooth under a microscope and will cause entrapment. O. Pete Synder evaluated 3 types of cutting boards, a hard maple cutting board, plastic cutting board, and a stainless steel surface. In his study he found that rinsing a cutting board with a solution of 1 part 5% vinegar to 4 parts water was a more effective sanitizer than using a quaternary ammonium compound solution for removing aerobic bacteria from a food contact surface (1). ENOUGH WITH THE DISTILLED BLEACH ALREADY, if they are advocating for the use of chlorine, please quantify. Keep in mind, this is not a restaurant and homeowners are not likely to have chlorine test strips to test their solution concentration causing a myriad of other concerns. Do not pour bleach into your residential dishwasher as this will lead to corrosion of pipes and may damage the machine. If you see residual food particles left after a cycle, this is an indication that your dishwasher is probably working well. Not a food safety concern and bleach will only ruin your machine. No mention of dishcloths or scrub pads. Results from show have shown that your ordinary dishcloth, scrub pads, and kitchen sinks are the dirtiest things in your kitchen. Maybe it’s time for a Kitchen Crimes US Edition. 1.     O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. 1997.The Microbiology Of Cleaning And Sanitizing A Cutting Board. Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management.