I Found a Hair in my Food!
|Over cooked eggs.
For over 5o years, I
have cooked and baked at home. For around 15 years, I have worked off and
on in the food industry cooking, baking, cleaning, serving, dietary
requirements, and quality control.
I enjoy food not only as
a requirement for life, but as an adventure. New recipes, new culture
foods, ancient foods, etc.
I enjoy going out from
time to time, whether in my own state or in another country.
For many years, I've
watched shows like The French Chef and Food Network.
But for many years now,
I've been slowly getting turned off by chefs, cooks, and
This story of getting
slowly turned off by other cooks and chefs probably started when I was young.
Years ago, I was with my
family visiting relatives out of state. We were grateful to have been
invited for breakfast and to be able to catch up on what was new in our
lives. When breakfast was served, the eggs in the quick egg dish were
green. Hard boiled eggs were not my favorite let alone green ones.
The looks of our food matters. If it doesn't look good, it is a complete
Another time while my
family and I were visiting some friends for Thanksgiving, I remember every bite
I took from different dishes had gobs of long hair in it. My first bite,
I panicked with nausea slowly taking over. I quickly found my napkin an indispensable
tool. The cook had long hair and obviously did not keep the hair back.
A third story brings you
to a restaurant that served excellent tasting food. I was with my family
out of the country. Each day we would go to this restaurant ordering
something new off their menu and finding that we enjoyed each item.
One night, I was excited
to order jumbo shrimp. The shrimp in this country was freshly caught in
one of the fishing towns.
Our plates of food were
delivered to us by our friendly waitress. She laid the plate of shrimp
down in front of me. It looked delicious. But as I looked, I caught
the smell of my shrimp.
I knew instantly
my shrimp was rotten. No question about it. I called the waitress
over and told her “The shrimp is bad. Please take it away and I will order
friendly waitress, who had been smiling previously, turned into the waitress
from some horror movie. She argued with me, telling me the shrimp was not
bad. She took it back and came back to
again arguing with me and telling me I was wrong.
As I sat there waiting
for something different, I noticed numerous tables around us were seated with
elderly people. Soon waitresses came out to the dining area and served
many of these tables with jumbo shrimp. As I sat there, the smell from
the shrimp around me almost forced me to run out of the open air restaurant due
to feeling nauseated.
I had urge to stand up
and go to table by table and warn people "do not eat the
shrimp!" I watched in horror as people were slowly eating the
About a month
later, while working at home, I received an email from this restaurant. A
month previously, I had asked them to send me a recipe for one of their
desserts they had on their menu. The owner emailed me the recipe. He
also emailed me an apology. The jumbo shrimp which had been freshly caught
and brought to their restaurant, had indeed been rotten. Apparently, the
shrimp had been left out in the hot sun!
Another restaurant I have gone to brought me soup made with moldy tomatoes.
Why am I telling you
these stories? Because when we cook/bake for the public and for our own
families, we need to cook/bake clean!!! I can't say that enough.
As cooks/chefs, we are
responsible for people's health. How? We look back at the story of
the elderly eating rotten shrimp. The country this story happened in was
known for causing travelers' diarrhea. That country tends to be hot and
humid as well. If elderly or anyone else were to get very sick, such as
in eating rotten shrimp or moldy vegetables, they may have ended up in the
hospital, dehydrated or worse. For the young and elderly, this can be
detrimental to their health.
As cooks/chefs, we want
to provide people not only with nutrition, but with enjoyment of the food we
prepare for them. This cannot occur if we allow contaminants to enter our
meals we serve.
I have eaten in
restaurants that were infested with roaches! We did not stay long or go
I have been in restaurants
that the manager/supervisors tell the workers in the kitchen to keep any
vegetable that are was a bit slimy. We are talking about half rotten
produce being served to the public!
Once when I was visiting
Chicago, Ill, I had the most enjoyable conversation with my taxi driver.
We both enjoyed cooking/baking and we both watched Food Network. The funny thing is, we both were totally grossed out by the chefs/cooks on the shows that cooked with their hair hanging down over the food.
Off and on the chef/cook would
take their hand and push the hair back.
And off and on, the chef/cook would clean his/her hands on a dirty
apron, touch their faces, and touch other potentially unclean surfaces with out
washing their hands.
Watching this brought
some gross memories back of finding someone's chest hair, beard hair, and head
hair in my food. Both of us, the taxi driver and I were grateful we
weren't the judges on those shows.
Growing up, I remember
hearing stories of my grandma getting food poisoning every Thanksgiving from others cooking/baking
This brings me to food
preparers wearing latex or vinyl to prepare or serve food. Wearing these
is an illusion of cleanliness.
Why? Because when
people wear gloves, they touch everything. They are not aware that if we
touch other surfaces with the gloves, we pick up bacteria on the gloves.
Example, have you ever seen a food preparer wearing gloves to prepare your
food? One problem is they touch your food, they touch money (which by the
way has thousands of bacteria, virus, and fungi on each coin or bill.) and then
they touch your food. Yuk! This does, from my friend’s experience
cause food poisoning.
Have you ever watched a
public restaurant make a sandwich for you?
Sometimes, they touch the cash register area, they put gloves on, they
touch the food, they touch ovens/grills, they touch money and then they go back
to make another sandwich with the same gloves on.
I'm one who believes in
bare hands. But those hands need to have been thoroughly washed before
handling the food. There is no touching
faces or hair or any other unclean surface.
If so, rewashing your hands is needed.
Touching things such as raw eggs, raw meat, doorhandles, etc. you will need
to rewash thoroughly. Of course,
bathroom use, hands need to be thoroughly cleaned.
You get the picture, I
Other than my experience
in the kitchen, I hold a microbiology degree as well. When one works in the microbiology area, one
learns quickly about contamination with bacteria, virus, and fungi.
So here are a few tips of
mine for working with food.
Wear a hairnet whether for a beard and/or your head. All hair must
be tucked up under the hairnet. Yep, it's not the most glamourous look,
but the food you prepare will be clean of head and beard hair! Yahhhh.
If a hairnet is out of the question, wear a ball hat with
all hair tucked under it. I’ve seen cooks preparing my food with a ponytail
and bangs hanging down over the food.
For chest hair, a white crewneck t-shirt worn under the
outfit for the kitchen will cover chest hair keeping it contained.
|Hairnets and clothing that covers most hair.
2. Mangers/supervisors in the public or women/men at
home cooking need to sort through all produce
removing all produce that is looking dull and losing
freshness. Slimy produce is to be thrown
away immediately. Thoroughly wash all produce with a
White vinegar water. In restaurants,
they may be required to use a weak bleach solution. Always
wash the so-called
3x washed lettuce that restaurants and home cooks use. It
still can be contaminated. I have personally used a diluted solution
of lemon dish soap with water to wash all firm produce such
as apples, oranges, celery, and
cauliflower, and potatoes.
Berries, Broccoli, lettuce, spinach, and other
more porous produce, I soak them in
the vinegar solution for 10-15 minutes.
Contamination of produce from coliform bacteria occurs
naturally in nature. Coliform bacteria
are from feces from all wildlife and humans. Feces contamination most likely has occurred in the
the field before being picked. (But not always.)
We also wash produce to remove pesticides and any other
contamination to the produce while it
was being handled.
3. Label your food products to be stored in freezer or
refrigerator with a piece of masking tape that
says: What the food is, the date it was made, and when
to throw it out/ date.
This requires you to understand how long food is healthily
maintained in the refrigerator and
4. Learn how to thoroughly wash your hands with a quality hand soap.
I know when I'm in the kitchen preparing a big meal, my hand towel becomes wet from drying my hands so often after washing. I immediately will grab a fresh towel. If you are rarely washing your hands throughout cooking, you may want to change that to washing often.
Washing between handling raw eggs, raw meats, raw meat
utensils, raw meat dishes, raw egg
utensils, raw egg cartons, raw egg dishes, raw meat
packaging materials. And washing your
hands after touching your face, your hair, the garbage can,
touching a light switch, touching the
refrigerator handle, and so forth. I hope you get the
idea. When we prepare foods, you must
be as clean as possible. Otherwise, disaster happens with creating food poisoning for yourself, family, and guests.
5. Do not count on a microwave oven to completely kill all bacteria in your food.
How can the bacteria survive?
The microwave oven does not heat food up evenly. You'll have pockets
of colder areas. In these colder areas, bacteria are
allowed to stay alive and grow.
6. A clean floor goes along ways to keeping unwanted
hair and such, out of the food we prepare.
While working for the nursing home, I was responsible to sweep and mop
every night in the kitchen.
A clean kitchen is a must. It not only prevents hair
from entering the food, but it stops any
kind of pests from living in your kitchen. Think
roaches, mice, bacteria, fungi, etc.
7. Wearing the proper clothing while cooking/baking is
also a must. Try to stay away from
fuzzy clothing such as fleece. The fleece holds on to
hair and fuzz. Hair and fuzz that can
find its way into your food. Try wearing a long sleeve shirt that is cool, comfortable, and does not
hang down. Long sleeves cover up our arm hair.
Wear relatively close-fitting sleeves to keep hair and the sleeve out of the food.
8. Wearing gloves in the kitchen for food preparation
can be worse than having bare hands.
The awareness of touching stuff is not there when wearing
gloves. Wearing gloves seems
to give the glove wearer permission to touch whatever they want
and not wash hands. Thus, the
gloves are more of a concern for germs and contamination to
9. Smoking while cooking/baking is strictly a
"NO." There is no room for dirty cooking/baking.
10. Understand what spoiled food smells and tastes
like. If any question about it being o.k. to eat,
throw it away. Food poisoning is not fun to
have. In fact, to some it can be deadly.
11. Food that looks good to eat does not need to be fancy looking.
Simply knowing how something should be cooked or how it should be prepared can go a long way.
I remember at a Thanksgiving one year, a friend made Candied
Yams. When the Candied Yams
came my way, I had to pass on them. The cook had allowed them to oxidize and so they were
black/gray looking. The look reminded me of mold. Again, not appetizing.
12. Listening to someone, a chef or cook, who doesn't
understand food prep can cause
your meal to be a flop and not real healthy.
ago, at the same Thanksgiving as above,
someone made wild rice with mushrooms for me. This
person knew I enjoyed wild rice
with mushrooms and so she took the time to make it. I
served myself a nice portion of her
wild rice. As I ate the wild rice/mushrooms, I had
dirt taste in my mouth. I had to spit out
the wild rice. Apparently, she listened to cooks/chefs
that say, "Do not wash your mushrooms off.
It makes them rubbery." Well, I do not agree with
these chefs/cooks. Mushrooms need to be washed off due to all the dirt on
them. Simply brushing the dirt off is not affective enough. Over cooking mushrooms
can make them rubbery.
Another problem with her wild rice was that
she did not understand she needed to thoroughly rinse off
the rice in running water. She had
bought some broken up wild rice, (worst quality you can buy
along with being the dirtiest.) and she did not rinse it off well enough.
Broken wild rice can have lots of dust left in it. Rinsing off 3x maybe needed.
13. Keep pets out of the kitchen while preparing foods.
I have watched pet hair float across the room before. Cooking/baking with pets in the kitchen to me is a big red-flag saying, "dirty kitchen."
14. Do not substitute cleaning your hands on your
apron for actual hand washing. Have you
ever been in a restaurant/café and have seen the chef/cook
use his/her apron to clean his/her
hands? Have you ever looked at their apron front- how
dirty it is full of food items?
Are you aware of how much bacteria are clinging to those
Simple, clean habits can go a long way in keeping your food safe. Taking a minute more of understanding how a food needs to be prepared or cooked/baked will create for a more appetizing and healthy meal.
If you have some other tips, please leave them. If you leave a URL with the comment, it will not be posted.
By Cynthia Bergsbaken
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April 11, 2020
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