Strong Comments on Local and Global Food Safety, Part 2

In Part 1 of this multi-part series (that may never end), I laid out some of what I felt is wrong with food safety issues in this country. But what about other countries?

Here’s Chef Anthony Bourdain in a Paris restaurant, from No Reservations on the Travel channel:

It’s a common traveler’s dilemma. You hear about a local joint that you just have to check out and, well, you hesitate. It’s not easy pushing your way through the front door of some new place. Is it going to be one of those cowboy moments where you walk in and everybody turns around and looks at you? You can’t turn on your heels then and say, “Oops, wrong place,” and leave. You’re in … But once in, especially in a place like Chez Robert and Louise, you’re rewarded with a truly local experience. I mean it would be impossible to have a business like this in the states. A wood burning fire, illegal. The meat, illegal. The dog, illegal. The cheese sitting out uncovered, illegal. Basically, everything that makes this place good would be illegal in The States.

“(E)verything that makes this place good would be illegal in The States.” I want to make sure you see that statement. It’s extremely important when looking at how similar situations are in “The States”.

I saw the above episode prior to finding the transcript on the web. The meat he talks about is lying on a wooden counter, likely for most of the day. The cheese is the same way, out in the open. There’s no refrigeration used for either of these items during the day. They’re out where they’ll be used, it’s just that the cook doesn’t know when they’ll be used.

The dog is lying on the floor, and is no Service Dog either. It’s just a dog. Lying there. And no one’s complaining.

You’re probably thinking, “Well! I would never eat at a place that allows meat to come to room temperature before cooking!” The fact is, you may have already done so. From this article a few years back on

With 64 restaurants around the globe and another set to open in July, it goes without saying that Morton’s Steakhouse knows more than just a little something about Memorial Day grilling … On The Early Show, Klaus Fritsch, who co-founded Morton’s Steakhouse 26 years ago, shared his secrets for grilled steak … “Bring Steaks Out of the Cold: Have steaks at room temperature before grilling.”

How do they get away with this in a restaurant? I’m really not sure. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve tried cooking steaks from both chilled and room temperature, and there’s definitely a difference. I’ll take the room temperature beef, thanks. 

As for cheese, look at the bottom photo in this post of mine from the other day. That’s John of the Boulevard Market in Tecumseh, holding a chunk of smoked gouda. Do you see the plastic around the bottom of that cheese? What that plastic is, is the food handler’s gloves John was wearing. They have to wear them whenever they get cheese out of the cooler to even give samples to customers.

John wouldn’t have to do that in Paris.

Do you like oysters? How do you like them? At an event at the Toledo Zoo I once enjoyed iced oysters on the half shell. There was a bin of ice, the oysters were lying on the ice, I picked one up and ate it. Sure, it was still alive. Can you eat them that way? Absolutely. What about at room temperature? Again, yes. From, from the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service:

Is it safe to eat raw oysters? – Most foods from animals are cooked prior to consumption. However, molluscan shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) are often consumed raw or partially cooked. Illnesses sometimes occur from eating shellfish, and although most illnesses are typically not life threatening, instances of serious illnesses and deaths have been reported (see section on VibrioInfection). Eating raw shellfish can increase risk of illness – cooking can reduce the risk.

Wait … clams and mussels, too?? YES. You can definitely eat these things raw, and the reality is that they’re best straight from the ocean floor, at the temperature of the water. Just pop ’em open, and suck ’em on down.

One day a few months ago, Chef Tad of the Frog Leg Inn had a patron in who was visiting from France. The patron had specifically requested Steak Tartare, which isn’t on Tad’s menu. For those unaware, the dish is basically raw ground beef. Scary enough, isn’t it? When Tad made up the dish, there just happened to be another serving. Read here to find out what happened to yours truly when that other serving landed in front of me a few minutes after the French citizen was served.

People around the world, in cultures hundreds and thousands of years older than ours, eat very differently than we do, and yet, they still survive. Food doesn’t have to be as scary as our government makes it out to be, and yet, with their focus being on what we can’t eat, and how to regulate and label things, rather than how to make food safe to begin with, is it any wonder we’re having all these recalls, e.Coli scares, and other incidents?

Part 3 is yet to come …

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