If your culinary philosophy includes the belief that no kitchen is complete without a bamboo matcha whisk or a box of gluten-free pancake mix, then Gwyneth Paltrow is probably the lifestyle guru for you. Along with promoting sex-dust smoothies and $US66 ($87) jade vagina eggs, Gwyn is of course an avid home cook with a library of YouTube cooking demonstrations and three cookbooks to her name. But following her recipes, it turns out, could make you sick — and not just because she once recommended dropping $US4,739 ($6,266) on a gold-plated juicer.
Gwyneth Paltrow. Image: Getty
After examining 29 cookbook titles that appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list, researchers at North Carolina State University concluded that the chicken recipes in her 2015 cookbook, "My Father's Daughter", lacked important safety information that could put people at risk of salmonella and campylobacter, a frequent culprit of food poisoning. That's because Paltrow failed to include information about the optimal final temperature for each dish in order to ensure bacteria was killed. And she recommended washing raw poultry, an outdated practice that increases the risk of campylobacter by spreading this nasty bacteria around the kitchen.
In this case, though, Paltrow is not alone in her blunder. In this latest study, published in the British Food Journal, researchers found that only 89 of 1497 recipes studied gave home cooks enough instruction to reduce their risk of food poisoning. Some recipes even doled out advice considered unsafe, like, for instance, washing chicken, or perpetuating myths, like that meat is done when the juices run clear.
"Gwyneth was just one of many bad actors," Ben Chapman, a food safety expert and author of the study, told Gizmodo. "At home, there is an assumption by the consumer that when a recipe says to cook something at 325 [Fahrenheit] for two hours, that's a safe thing to do. That's not science-based. If you were in a restaurant, it would be required to cook food to a certain temperature or warn consumers with a message about undercooked meat."
Cooking time is a particularly unreliable indicator of a dish being done because many factors can affect how long it takes to cook something. To kill off pathogens reliably, meat, poultry, fish and eggs should instead be cooked to the appropriate internal temperature.
Unlike most of Paltrow's pseudoscientific advice, this error is largely one of omission, and a common one at that. (Gizmodo reached out to Paltrow via her lifestyle brand, Goop, but did not hear back.) Still, since Paltrow's aim is to promote healthy living, it might behove her to include Chapman's recommended information in future recipes. You may be more likely to get food poisoning dining out, but there's still risk of getting it at home and handling meat poorly is a pretty good way to get it.
Chapman was interested in cookbooks because many people use them as instructional tools to learn how to cook, so they provide a opportunity to teach good food safety habits. He noted that a similar study done 25 years ago found similar results — meaning that in the past quarter century, nothing has changed.
Next, Chapman plans to work with cookbook publishers and authors to develop a food safety checklist for future cookbooks.
"It doesn't take a lot of space to encourage people to cook food in a safe way," he said.