Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 2)

The last article introduced the idea that there are some foods we trust and some we take care with because of social, scientific and historical factors. It’s relatively easy to think of a couple of examples of foods we don’t trust. Take chicken, for instance, or eggs (which comes first is still a matter for debate.)

These two very popular ingredients are joined on the list of high risk foods by shellfish. Members of the public are really wary about these foods and some choose never to eat them just in case. Others only eat them at home where they can be absolutely certain that they have been prepared properly. What they’re frightened of is salmonella.

Food poisoning caused by salmonella or any other bacteria is very unpleasant and can be extremely dangerous. What people don’t necessarily realise is that all foods are potential poisoners if they are not stored, prepared and cooked in the right way.

Cases of salmonella associated with eggs have dropped significantly since the British Lion standard came into effect and stringent criteria in food safety regulations make sure underperforming restaurants, takeaways and cafes are prevented from serving customers.

Now, the high risk list has many more foods on it than eggs, shellfish and chicken and some of them might surprise us. This is the subject of Part 3 in this series of articles.

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 1)

Food safety is something that ought to come under the category of essential knowledge. We all need to know what foods are good for us and what foods are bad for us in order to live healthy lives. However, it’s also about knowing exactly how to prepare certain foods to stay safe and avoid illness. This kind of knowledge isn’t innate. It’s something we have to learn from the people around us.

It’s interesting that we think of some foods as being especially dodgy and others as relatively safe, even though the science may suggest that there’s not much difference between the two.

Attitudes to food safety are often determined by social context – old wives’ tales, representation in the media, hearsay, apocryphal ‘facts’ and scientific studies. The latter are made more or less trustworthy depending on how they are funded, so naturally there’s some confusion as to how we ought to treat this or that ingredient.

This topic is relevant to everyone because we’re responsible for our own health and wellbeing and that of our dependants. However, it’s possibly even more relevant for businesses that provide food because of the sheer number of people they serve. Poor food safety is enough to shut businesses down permanently.

In the following articles, we’ll look at some of the foods we trust and some of those we don’t in more detail.