As It Happens

Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook dishes out some bad food safety advice, study says

A new study out of North Carolina State University has found that the vast majority of bestselling cookbooks — many of them penned by celebrities — give bad or inadequate food hygiene advice.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow signs copies of her book It's All Easy, her followup to 2013's It's All Good. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

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Despite what Gwyneth Paltrow says, you should never wash raw chicken in your sink.

This, according to a new study out of North Carolina State University that has found the vast majority of bestselling cookbooks — many of them penned by celebrities — give bad or inadequate food hygiene advice.

Paltrow's 2013 book It's All Good contains one recipe that instructs readers to wash raw chicken in the sink before cooking it — a big food safety no-no, says lead author Katrina Levine of the school's agricultural and human sciences department.

Don't wash raw chicken, no matter what cookbook recipes say, urges a new study out of North Carolina State University. (Wasant/Shutterstock )

"When you wash your raw meat in the sink, what happens when the water hits the surface of that meat or poultry is it causes the bacteria to come splash and splatter across your kitchen, so it's not a safe practice, because it's spreading bacteria throughout your kitchen," Levine told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Misinformation and missing information 

But the biggest problem, Levine said, isn't what the books tell you to do — it's what they don't tell you.

The study, which was published in the British Food Journal, looked at more than 1,500 recipes involving raw animal ingredients from 29 cookbooks on the New York Times bestseller list, including books by Paltrow, Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten and Rachael Ray. 

It found that more than 90 per cent didn't give any information about the safe internal temperature for meat, instead relying on what Levine calls "subjective indicators," like checking the colour or texture.

"We know that using an internal temperature is the only science-based way to get a safe dish," Levine said. 

Rachael Ray was among the cookbook authors who gave bad information or not enough information about food hygiene, according to the study. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

What's more, Levine said that only 4.5 per cent of the cookbooks give information about how to avoid cross-contamination — things like washing your hands before preparing food and after handling raw ingredients, or switching to a clean plate between preparing ingredients and serving a meal. 

Back to the basics

But is it really the job of Garten, author of The Barefoot Contessa, to remind people to wash their hands?

"Sure, I don't see any reason why she should not tell you to wash your hands," Levine said. 

"I know a lot of us cook at home and we may already know these things and that's OK, but there are people who may not, and so it's just one other thing we can do to help reduce that risk."

There's no good reason why Ina Garten, host of Barefoot Contessa, shouldn't tell her cookbook readers to wash their hands before and after preparing food, says the lead author a new food hygiene study. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Levine said the study is not about calling out Paltrow or Garten or any famous chef.

"We're not trying to pinpoint specific people that are doing things wrong, but we just want to open up the dialogue about including more food safety information and safe food handling preparation messages into cookbooks and recipes."


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