Study Finds Celebrity Chefs Lacking in Food Safety Skills

Celebrity chefs demonstrate poor food safety on TV with issues including lack of hand washing, poor personal hygiene and inadequate cleaning and sanitising.
December 20, 2016

A recent study by food safety professors at Kansas State University has found that celebrity chefs on TV shows demonstrate poor food safety habits in the kitchen.

The food safety experts watched 100 cooking shows with 24 different popular celebrity chefs and discovered many poor food hygiene techniques being used.

"Twenty-three percent of chefs licked their fingers; that's terrible," said Edgar Chambers IV, professor and director of the Sensory Analysis Center at Kansas State University. "Twenty percent touched their hair or dirty clothing or things and then touched food again."

Many of the hazards observed related to hand washing. Chefs didn't wash their hands during food preparation, or after handling raw meats and other potentially hazardous foods. This means that pathogens from the meat could remain on the chefs' hands, only to be passed onto other food items.

"All celebrity chefs have to do is mention these things as they go along: 'Remember to wash your hands,' 'Don't forget to change out your cutting board,' or 'I washed my hands here' — which some chefs did do," Chambers said. "They don't have to show it on television but they should remind viewers that there are safety issues involved in food preparation.

Chopping board hygiene also featured prominently in the list of hazards with celebrity chefs not cleaning and sanitising chopping boards in betwen preparing different types of food, such as raw meat and salad items. And temperature control was lacking in many of the TV shows with few chefs using a thermometer or checking the temperature of meat when cooking.

Of course, when watching a TV show, it can't be known whether good food safety practices were followed for the most part, but cut out during the editing process. However, the study raises an interesting question about whether cooking shows have a responsibility to demonstrate good food safety. Professor Chambers seems to think so.

"I think that celebrity chefs have a responsibility for entertaining us, but they also have a responsibility to give us good food," he said. "We want celebrity chefs to teach us how to make food that not only tastes good but is good for us — and part of that is good food safety."

So next time you're watching your favourite cooking show, think about the food safety hazards that you observe and consider the impact it could be having on the next generation of eager chefs watching their idols on the screen.