Have you ever considered what REALLY goes into your food when someone else prepares it for you at a Restaurant or other food service?
Considering that the true amount people eat out is more than 50% of the time, contamination sources from food services must be understood if you are concerned with your health.
An effective HACCP plan (http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/HazardAnalysisCriticalControlPointsHACCP/ucm114868.htm) can mitigate much of these vectors, yet they only control them to a point, not eliminate them, and the effects of these multiple contaminations and accumulations aren't considered in light of the consumers health (only to keep customers from getting sick to stay in business)
Below is a list of various contamination factors I put together from my experience in the food service industry.
Vectors of biological and Chemical contamination in Commercial Food service operations that can contribute to health complications:
-GMO's: the most insidious of all contaminations! (virtually in all
processed/packaged foods including Nutritional yeasts, sugars..)
-Humans: (the more pretty your food on your plate, the more
people touched it)
-The handling of various foods during operations contributes to
multiple cross contamination, no amount of washing and
chemicals will prevent cross-comtamination. Which makes
Allergen free food services are very rare (for that sake,
vegan/vegetarian/gluten/nut free food services if they serve
those contaminants otherwise)
-Human hair, skin, saliva (personal hygiene practices)
-They are the main cross contamination vectors (trash to sink to
food to toilet to food, etc...)
-Foods naturally contain a certain level of insect parts (from fresh
salad greens to grains),though they are rarely considered
pathological for humans.
-improperly stored foods can attract and contain insects
-Foods naturally contain a certain levels of animal parts/fecal
matter/hair, not normally considered pathological for humans, as
long as its keep to USDA standards.
-Sources of contamination: Water supply, air, humans, foods,
-Intrinsic properties of foods and processing (bacterial levels,
-Equipment (cutting boards, ice-makers, water pipes,
refridgerators, sinks, tables, small wares, storage ware, etc...)
-Animal/plant products: conventionally raised
livestock,wild/farmed fish and much of the
plant crops now contain certain levels of Hormones, pesticides,
genetic modification, environmental contaminations (organic or
-City water supply (HALO's, Chlorines, bromines, florides, etc...)
-Water pipes (copper, lead, plasticizers, iron, etc...)
-coffee filters (material made with bleaching and other
-Dishwashers (highly toxic cleaners/sanitizers/rinse agents leave
residues on flat ware and
are sent into the air and water supply)
-Cleaning agents: Tables, floors, equipment
-Cook ware: aluminum, non-stick, plastic, (cookware, utensils,
equipment) (can react with
cleaning agents, foods and cooking methods to contaminate
-storage ware: Cambros (#5, #7 containers), cellophane/plastic
wrap, alluminum foil
-Service ware: (melamine, plastic, metal) plates, bowls, cups,
-Cooking methods: High heat cooking (searing/roasting/baking
produce highly toxic compounds related to multiple health
disorders for the people cooking them and the people eating
-Disposable wares: (Plastic, wax, paper wares) my impression is
that even bio-compostable wares are even more toxic, less
stable bonds of materials and they still use petroleum/chemical
-Product packaging: Plastics, waxes, cardboards, biological
control chemicals, fumigants, preserving agents.
-Rubber/plastic/nitrile gloves: both the material and the
Talcum/cornstarch/other powder/chemicals used in
producing/packaging/ease of use.
So, its pretty much impossible to have a contamination free food service...you just have to choose your level of contamination that you are willing to accept...you control many of these factors when your produce your own food. So you see why I rarely eat out...
I've worked in a few places that used the sous vide method. Its becoming quite popluar in fancy restaurants as a way to cook foods to perfect doneness.
From a culinary perspective its an amazing way to cook and produces consistent products, it adds another dimension to a chefs repertoire that can make for great food.
That said, from a health perspective, I would avoid it like the plague. Chefs tend to want to manipulate food in many different ways to coax as much flavor out of food. Which is why they cook things in so much oil, brown everything, loads of salt and sugar, msg, etc...So this is really just trading one method of unhealthy cooking for another. Heating liquid oils, at all, produces some nasty carcinogens and oxidised lipid with goes on to produce AGE's in our bodies. But then cooking sous vide leaches various petrochemicals into the food. And usually restaurants that would do sous vide will also do the frying/flavoring of the same food, so you are getting a double whammy...
Also, they are likely planning on cooking foods sous vide that have alcohol, acid, or fat...all of which leach compounds out of plastics even faster than water (see study below).
The cooking times will likely vary from 30 minutes to 2 days when cooking sous vide, and the longer the time and the higher the temperature, the more compounds will be leached from the plastic.
Plus, this is another expensive piece of equipment that can be marketed to chefs and customers...so this is just another way to make a buck, without really having a concern for the customers best health. (restaurants weren't designed for that, your own kitchen is...)
This is some of the reasoning behind my recommendations that people really concerned about their health should avoid eating out at restaurants altogether (no matter the quality or promoted health benefits). Yes, extreme, but you would be surprised as to what other kind of contamination happens in the best of restaurants...trust me.
Here is some background on what I'm talking about...
Sous vide cooking products
The plastic bags used in sous vide are likely made of PET (or HDPE) so here is a report on the leaching of a specific chemical at low temperatures. Even thought the EPA has set standards for contamination levels of such products, if these compounds are toxic at all, why would it be ok at ANY level, especially one with a carcinogenic level as low as 6ppb!
There is another way to cook sous vide which is much healthier, yet hasn't seen professional applications. There is a way to vacuum seal glass jars and cook sous vide. Glass is a better conductor of heat and is less of a source of contamination and has zero leaching (plus they are 100% reusable/recyclable ).
Blog of a Therapeutic Chef
Adventures, discoveries, experiences, opinions, and mistakes in the world of food, faith and farming