TrendWire, July 2012

TrendWire, July 2012

Food & Drink

TrendWire, July 2012


The Food Channel Trendwire
July 2012 •

Food Safety: To Glove or Not to Glove?

Aliza Green has spent more than three decades in the food business, as a chef and consultant, and she says she’s seen some pretty scary things in the kitchen—some rather common acts of unsafe food prep committed with gloves on.

In an article written for The Washington Post, Green describes a scenario in which a food preparation worker washes her hands and puts on gloves to begin making chicken salad: She seasons the poultry pieces, rubbing them with salt, pepper and herbs, then spreads them out in a pan for steaming. Wearing the same gloves, she dices celery and onions. She makes the dressing. Finally, she cuts up the chicken, mixes the salad and packs it away, ready to sell. All without pulling on a new pair of gloves.

Now there’s a great recipe for cross contamination and food borne illness.

Green calls the use of gloves in foodservice “problematic.” People equate them with food safety, she says, but often they’re as much the problem as the solution.

A 2007 study in the Journal of Food Protection concluded: “Hand washing and glove use were also related to each other — hand washing was less likely to occur with activities in which gloves were worn.” A study appearing in the same journal three years later issues this caution: “Glove use can create a false sense of security, resulting in more high-risk behaviors that can lead to cross-contamination when employees are not adequately trained.”

The 2010 report goes on to say: “Occlusion of the skin during long-term glove use in food operations creates the warm, moist conditions necessary for microbial proliferation and can increase pathogen transfer onto foods through leaks or exposed skin or during glove removal.”

Translation: The act of wearing latex gloves can be hazardous in and of itself.

As Barry Michaels, writing for Food Safety magazine, states: “Gloves are meant to protect the product and the worker. If the gloves are torn or punctured, worn without being changed or sanitized, and the worker’s hands were not washed before donning, then the risk is amplified rather than reduced.” Michaels’ report offers an excellent analysis/comparison of the various types of gloves available for use in food preparation.

But the fact is, even the best gloves are no substitute for regular, frequent, and thorough hand washing.

A recent study conducted in a fast food restaurant found more than twice as much coliform bacteria in tortilla samples handled by gloved workers compared to those made using bare hands. A study by the Centers for Disease Control involving more than 300 restaurants found that “attempted and appropriate hand-washing rates were significantly lower when gloves were worn than when gloves were not worn.”

Then there’s the waste factor of producing and disposing of all those non-renewable gloves that pile up in our landfills, but that’s another story.

Green writes that it’s time we reevaluate the automatic and ubiquitous usage of gloves. She argues that we’d be better off if restaurants and other foodservice facilities made a more conscious effort to make sure food handlers wash their hands frequently–doing things like installing automatic or foot pedal-operated hand sinks.

Regulations for glove use vary across the U.S. The FDA recommends hand washing before making food and putting on gloves to make the food. On the other hand (no pun intended), the Arkansas Department of Agriculture says: “Glove usage has not been proven to lower the incidence of food-borne illnesses. Gloves become just as dirty as the bare hand but are not as likely to be replaced as often as the hands are washed.”

In Australia there’s a food safety mantra that says it well: “A clean hand is better than a dirty glove.” That’s where Aliza Green comes down on the subject. She says she’d rather see the gloves come off.

There are other potential problems with gloves. One is using gloves that may have small holes in them. A single glove hole can release tens of thousands of bacteria from overly moist internal glove surfaces. Another problem that can occur: glove fragments can end up in food, especially when they’re worn when food is being chopped, sliced and diced.

Studies in the UK have concluded that, compared to bare hands, gloved hands can contribute as much if not more bacteria to foods and food-preparation surfaces, and thus be a cause of cross-contamination. Gloves should be changed or sanitized when cooks move from working with raw meats to preparing vegetables and other foods, the study concludes. 

Another recent UK study suggests one disinfecting method to guard against cross-contamination, but it involves a time-consuming, five-step process:

  1. Immerse the gloved hands in a 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution
  2. Remove gloves by turning them inside out and soak them in the same solution for 10 minutes
  3. Wash gloves by hand, inside and out, in soapy water
  4. Rinse thoroughly
  5. Air test for leaks by inflating the hand and holding under water, look for bubbles and dispose if any appear

Come on now. How likely is a busy restaurant kitchen going to take the time to go through that kind of elaborate procedure? Not a chance.

Whether you are in the foodservice business, or a customer dining in a restaurant, the conclusion here is probably this: Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the presence of food handlers wearing gloves. It still comes down to cleanliness. Just like your mom might have told you, it’s still right next to godliness—especially in the kitchen.

Customer Service Ratings Up for Fast Food Chains

A new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) report released last month indicated that, for the first time in the index’s history, quick-service restaurants ranked just as high as casual-dining eateries in customer service. Each received an overall average ASCI score of 80.

Quoted in QSR Magazine, David VanAmburg, ACSI’s managing director, said he attributed the results to “a combination of improving quality over the past few years and good prices.”

“Customers are shopping around much more on price, looking to stretch their dollars as much as possible,” VanAmburg said.

Data from more than 70,000 customer surveys were used to measure customer satisfaction in 10 economic sectors, including full service and fast food restaurants. Consumers were asked to score restaurant brands for quality of food, value and experience. Based on the surveys, the restaurant brands are ranked on a scale of 0 – 100.

VanAmburg said he also believes the increased number of healthy options played a role in the improved rankings of quick-serve brands.

The top quick-serve restaurant brands were ranked as follows:

  • Papa John’s – 83
  • Little Caesar’s – 82
  • Subway – 82
  • Wendy’s – 78
  • Pizza Hut – 78
  • Taco Bell – 77
  • Domino’s – 77
  • KFC – 75
  • Burger King – 75
  • McDonald’s – 73

Although McDonald’s brought up the rear in rankings among the fast food chains, the score was its highest since the ASCI began publishing the data in 1995. As recently as 2002, McDonald’s satisfaction score was 61.

VanAmburg says pizza’s convenience, coupled with its value factor, gives the segment a leg up.


Hot Trend: Now You’re Cooking with Smoke!

Two of Americans’ favorite foods are:

  1. Anything with bacon
  2. Anything cooked on the barbecue grill

And what do those two things have in common? If you said “smoky flavor,” treat yourself to a BLT.

Now, it seems, the hot new trend among both home cooks and pro chefs is cooking with smoke. A recent story, authored by Sarah Rose for the Wall Street Journal, puts this food prep method in trend contention for The New Bacon.

Whether you’re talking about white tablecloth restaurants or roadside BBQ joints, smoked foods can be found on the menu in abundance today.

In New York last year, Chef Galen Zamarra opened Mas (la grillade), a restaurant built around the concept of wood-fired cooking. Everything in the place is smoked, even the desserts. You might want to try the smoked white chocolate mousse with charred cherries and brown butter cake.

Then there’s Chef John Eisenhart’s Pazzo in Portland, Ore., where you can catch plenty of smoked fish dishes, including smoked fish livers and tuna hearts.

“If salt is the odorless spice, smoke is the ephemeral magical invisible spice,” says chef Seamus Mullen, interviewed by Rose for the WSJ story. Mullen smokes foods ranging from eggs to olive oil at his fine-dining restaurant Tertulia in New York City. “You can’t feel it, you can’t touch it, but you can taste it.”

Smoked cocktails are big-time trendy, too. At Craftbar in New York, mixologists are smoking the Campari in the house Negroni. In Chicago, the Smoked Sicilian Manhattan at the Bristol contains bourbon that gets a cherry-wood treatment. Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C., pumps cassia-bark fumes into a blend of mescal, maple syrup and maple bitters and calls the drink Where There’s Mezcal. The Bottega in Yountville, Calif., uses three sources of smoke: smoked tequila, smoked jalapeño simple syrup and oak-smoked salt on the rim. And you can find specialty drinks made with smoked ice and liqueur-soaked wood chips at Clio restaurant in Boston.

Smoke gets in your eyes when you watch cooking shows on cable TV these days, with programs such as “Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction” on the Food Network and “BBQ Pitmasters” on TLC smoking things up.

Nearly 90 percent of American households own a grill, and sales of wood chips and wood planks have been climbing in recent times, so it’s clear lots of amateur grillmasters are smoking their meats as well as grilling them.

Jamie Purviance, author of the new “Weber’s Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill” says students in his grilling classes are particularly interested in how to use wood when grilling such things as chicken and pork tenderloin for shorter periods, not the traditional “low and slow.”

“It’s actually very simple,” Purviance says about using wood smoke. “It’s the way we’ve been cooking since man has been cooking. We just found ways to control it.”

Grilling with cedar wood planks has become a popular way to prepare foods such as fresh salmon—and early summer is prime time for snaring some wild caught Pacific salmon such as Coho and Sockeye—delicious!

Many amateur smokers have begun to experiment with adding flavors to wood chips by soaking them in liquids such as wine, beer or fruit juice before setting fire to them. The liquids infuse the chips with flavor as they soak, bringing additional flavor complexity and dimension as the food sizzles on the grill.

However you slice it, this looks to be THE smokin’ hot trend for summer food preparation.

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