Food Safety Fears Emerge Over Sous Vide Cooking

Experts have expressed concern about the safety of sous vide style cooking, after new research emerged claiming that a large majority of recipes don’t adhere to the recommended food safety guidelines laid out by the FSA.

Sous vide is a method of cooking whereby food is sealed in an airtight bag or container, placed in a water bath and slow-cooled over a long period of time at a low temperature. The technique has flourished in recent years, thanks in part to its popularity among a contingent of high-profile chefs who’ve praised the practice — stating that it offers a simple yet effective way to cook infamously tough meats.

But despite the apparent benefits of sous vide cooking, fears have emerged concerning the safety of the practice, with some critics worried that sous vide does not adequately protect diners from the dangers of food poisoning.

A report by food and drink specialist Campden BRI has partially confirmed these fears; it found that in some cases, sous vide recipes do not follow standard food safety guidelines — putting diners at an increased risk of receiving food poisoning from undercooked meat dishes.

One of the areas of greatest concern was the technique whereby meat is cooked in a marinade or sauce. Due to the thick liquid layer which forms between the food and the container, experts believe that this would make it too difficult to predict when the food is cooked through — given that the liquid affects the time it takes for the product to cook through to its core.

Another area of concern is that certain bacteria found in food can produce poisonous toxins when deprived of oxygen, as is the case when food is vacuum packed ready for sous vide cooking. According to the report, some bacteria can become so toxic during the process that they could attribute to the development of botulism — a rare and potentially fatal illness.

Despite these safety fears, Mary Dan Eades, co-founder of Sous Vide Supreme — who manufacturer special sous vide cookery ovens — has publically criticised the findings of the report. She said: “To single out sous vide cooking and imply people must be extra cautious or run the risk of botulism is simply incorrect. The cooking method has been used for several decades, and is completely safe for commercial and home use.”

And it would seem Eades is right to question the research findings. In the history of sous vide cooking there have been no reported cases of botulism linked to the use of such techniques. Indeed, the last case of botulism recorded in the UK occurred in 1989.

That said, the safety of sous vide cooking — as well as all other forms of cookery and food preparation — should not be approached with complacency. If you own your own business and are seeking help and advice in food safety processes, contact the Shieldyourself team today on 020 3355 0981, or visit our website to find out more about how we can help you.

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