TV cook shows can make viewers pick up dirty kitchen habits

TV chef Jamie Oliver (Photo: Shutterstock)TV chef Jamie Oliver (Photo: Shutterstock)
TV chef Jamie Oliver (Photo: Shutterstock)

Popular TV cooking shows can turn amateur chefs into dirty cooks, a new study showed.

Viewers watching celebrity chefs make basic hygiene errors are more likely to pick up the bad habits.

The most common ones were wiping hands on tea towels, not washing chopping boards between preparing different ingredients, using finger tips to sprinkle salt or pepper and not washing hands after coughing, sneezing, scratching or touching their hair.

But if chefs stick to good hygiene practice then their fans will too.

The NHS said cooks should wash their hands before handling food and especially after touching raw food to avoid spreading food bugs.

Raw meat, including poultry, can also contain harmful bacteria that spreads easily to anything it touches, including food, worktops, tables, chopping boards, and knives so they must be kept clean.

And it is important to keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat foods such as bread, salad and fruit as they won't be cooked to kill off any bugs.

Over half a million Britons suffer food poisoning each year, the Food Standards Agency estimates.

The most common foodborne pathogen was Campylobacter causing over 280,000 cases, Clostridium perfringens causing 80,000 cases, and norovirus 74,000 cases.

Food fears

Salmonella was the causes of the most hospital admissions, some 2,500 each year.

Poultry meat is estimated to cause half of all food poisoning cases followed by vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and beef and lamb the third biggest cause.

Now the German BfR Federal Institute For Risk Assessment found TV cook shows really do influence a viewer's behaviour in the kitchen.

BfR President Professor Andreas Hensel said: "The results show that important hygiene measures are often neglected in cooking shows, with one hygiene error being observed every 50 seconds on average.

"If you always wash your hands thoroughly after touching eggs, raw vegetables or meat, for example, and if you clean chopping boards after every working step, you can protect yourself and others from foodborne diseases."

Yet a recent survey by BfR showed consumers often underestimate the health risks of poor kitchen hygiene.

While over two fifths said they were concerned about kitchen cleanliness when eating out, just over a sixth had such worries at home.

So the BfR investigated the influence of TV cooking shows on kitchen hygiene in the home.

In the first part of the study, 100 episodes of popular cooking shows were analysed to see if any health rules were broken.

On average, one hygiene error was observed every 50 seconds with the most common being dirty hands wiped on a tea towel and chopping boards were reused without first being cleaned.

Clean cooking

From a health point of view, thorough interim cleaning of chopping boards is recommended with foods that are not to be heated before eating.

The second part looked at the influence the shows had on viewers when they cook at home.

Participants prepared a chicken salad with home-made mayonnaise in a test kitchen based on a cooking video.

The video showed either a chef who visibly followed all recommended hygiene measures or a cook with poor kitchen hygiene.

Results showed people who had seen the cooking video with the exemplary kitchen hygiene complied with the recommended hygiene measures more frequently when cooking the dish by themselves.

Prof Hensel added: "The results show that the kitchen hygiene presented in cooking shows may have an influence on the hygiene behaviour of the viewers.

"TV cooking shows can therefore take on a role model function by sharpening awareness of kitchen hygiene instead of neglecting it."