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What's Up With Guidelines?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by pdmjoker, Oct 6, 2020.

  1. pdmjoker

    pdmjoker Prediabetes · Well-Known Member

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    Official guidelines can sometimes appear contradictory, nonsensical or even just wrong. This seems especially true when in relation to an ever-changing, ongoing situation.

    Why?

    Official guidelines are frequently an attempt, for sound practical reasons, to simplify complex or subtle situations.

    Therefore, producing official guidelines is a process fraught with pitfalls: not just because it is undertaken by fallible human beings (who might make mistakes), but also since simplifying a complex situation inevitably leads to approximations (read: inaccuracies) which, in certain scenarios, can result in something nonsensical or apparently contradictory.

    Guidelines can be handy, though: who really wants to read something like a lengthy software legal agreement or long insurance policy document when they are pushed for time and simply need to cook some chicken thighs for their supper?

    Most people know that poultry needs to be cooked properly to kill any salmonella which might be present, but nowadays advice on a pack of chicken often reads "DO NOT WASH". How odd! Surely washing chicken does it no harm!

    Indeed, washing chicken would do it no harm, but you might end up doing yourself some!

    From the UK NHS website:

    Washing raw chicken before cooking it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria.​

    Splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread the bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.​

    Water droplets can travel more than 50cm in every direction. Only a few campylobacter cells are needed to cause food poisoning.​

    The rationale is explained thus:

    Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter. Washing chicken can spread germs by splashing.​

    True, all this info, plus the likelihood of campylobacter being present in chicken, etc. could be printed on the pack. But, it would be long and unlikely to be read adequately. (I often read advice on food packaging while walking across the kitchen with it just prior to cooking the contents.) It's far simpler (and arguably safer) to just have "DO NOT WASH". Although, I agree, it does seem rather odd!

    I checked, and our latest pack of chicken actually reads (and in bold):

    Do not wash poultry before cooking.

    Although not from a safety perspective, I also imagine it undesirable to wash poultry after cooking it! :)
     
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