Microbiology scares me

They actually do a simple experiment in this video to show the effectiveness of washing your hands after handling meat (but where was the control of sampling the bacterial load before handling?), but still, this is one of the reasons we’ve been going vegetarian at my house.

Of course, another control that should have been done: what kind of bacterial smear is on your hands after handling lettuce? I demand a new video with more rigorous quantitative comparisons.

That’s especially since my new dietary regime I’ve imposed on myself and my wife is salads, and nothing else, for dinner every other night. We get our protein dose every other day. Tonight it’s fake pulled pork (seitan) sandwiches, we’ll see how this stuff tastes.


  1. davidc1 says

    Going veggie Doc ,next you will be wearing sandals and socks ,and a ponytail .
    Over here in GB there is a meat free product named Quorn ,i think it is mad out of some kind of fungi .
    The one that passes for minced beef tastes ok ,the chicken is disgusting .

  2. stroppy says

    We have Quorn here in the US. Even at Walmart. I use ketchup on the nuggets.

    It’s one way to take a break from the soy products…

  3. says

    We get quorn here, too. Seitan is made of wheat gluten, so it’s also non-soy (not that there’s anything wrong with soy).

  4. HappyHead says

    A friend of mine is the health and safety guy at a sausage factory (no, an actual factory where they make sausages, not… oh nevermind…) and the answer to your question about bacteria on your hands after handling lettuce is kind of scary, depending on where you get it, and when.

    A few (like, 6 or so) months ago there was a big listeria scare, at least in Canada and parts of the US, where all romaine lettuce was basically yanked off the shelves everywhere. That’s because unlike the meat handling places, there were absolutely NO health and safety handling requirements for vegetable producers. To wash the vegetables after they were picked, they’d just dunk them all in a big tank of water, usually on a conveyor belt, and call it done. No procedures for cleaning those conveyor belts, testing for bacteria on them or in the water tank, or anything. Meanwhile, listeria LOVES water, so as soon as you dunk one vegetable with that one it in the “wash” tank, the WHOLE CROP is contaminated, and it hides in the little cracks and crevices on your conveyor belts, so that it’s nearly impossible to fully get rid of without just burning the whole facility to the ground and starting over.

    After the big listeria scare, Canada’s government put in new regulations forcing all food producers to follow the same set of guidelines for cleanliness in their facilities and weekly government inspections. Even with two months’ warning, the day the regulations hit, all Canadian produced vegetables vanished from the shelves of Canadian grocery stores for two months until they got their acts together. My friend’s only complaint was that he had to go through all of their process documentation and change the regulation numbers to match the new ones, since they were already doing everything required.

  5. says

    If not treated with respect, seitan tastes like it sounds:
    <ChurchLadyVoice> Could it be SATAN? </ChurchLadyVoice>
    The key problem with seitan for Westerners getting older is that it requires lots (and lots and lots) of salt/salty condiments to be palatable, which has other health consequences. Sadly, this is consistent with almost all of the “meat substitutes” easily available in American supermarkets — just compare the sodium in one serving to the recommended daily limit…

  6. Kevin Karplus says

    Seitan (wheat gluten) is an ok source of protein, but for texture young jack fruit works better in vegetarian “pulled-pork” recipes. It doesn’t provide much nutrition, though. I find tofu and tempeh to be more useful than seitan as vegetarian protein sources. (Perhaps, more accurately, I should say that my wife has many more tofu and tempeh dishes that she cooks than seitan dishes.)

  7. says

    Worst case of people contracting illnesses from food in Germany was in 2011. 53 people died. From eating sprouts contaminated with e coli.

  8. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out this is one of things which is so wonderful about cheese. Besides being basically rotten matter (some say milk, but those in the know giggle as they prepare their cheese traps, harpoons, and ballistic missiles), it also contains and / or is coated with the stuff. For instance, the skin on Camembert & Brie is mold, as are the spots and veins in blued cheeses. (So is the fuzzy green stuff on the outsides of cheeses, but she can’t get anybody else to eat that — nor can the fuzzy green stuff, which insists it is an alien life form specifically bred to be eaten, albeit unrelated to the Ameglian Major Cow.)

  9. wzrd1 says

    “That’s especially since my new dietary regime I’ve imposed on myself and my wife is salads, and nothing else, for dinner every other night.”
    That, I have a problem with, imposing my diet upon another.
    That said, I’m infamous for enjoying a feed bag around my ears or just… Browsing.

    My wife, she prefers meat and potatoes, with the health issues that go with high carb diets, rather than working through the fuel.

  10. says

    If bacteria scare is one of the reasons going vegetarian, it is one of the bad reasons I am afraid. Vegetables can be contaminated just as well, and consequences can be just as dire as of contracting salmonela from improperly handled chicken. After all in the field all kinds of creepy-crawlies with lots of legs or lots of slime crawl over the fruit and veggies without any consideration for where to go to the lav. And the birds soaring above feeding on the creepy crawlies do not deliberately aim in between the lettuce heads either.

    Here is source for Giliell’s comment #8, which was what has sprung to my mind too after reading the article, because I still remember reading about it in 2011.

    The key variable is not whether the food is vegetable or animal, but whehter proper hygiene was observed in producing, storing and preparing it. Weren’t you posting a few weeks ago about a guy who got food poisoning from old pasta? A “favourite” food poisoning source around the world is reheated rice, where bacillus cereus just thrives – without meat.

    In our household we even wash tin cans before opening them. Why? Because during transport and storage all kinds of stuff can get stuck on the lid, including animal droppings. We do eat re-heated food and we store cooked food in the fridge for days at a time – but we take care to cool it quick and store it at sufficiently low temperature, and when re-heating to heat it quick and always, always to the boiling temperature.

    None of us has OCD, but we wash our hands every time before, during and after handling food, however small ammoutn -a nd whatever type. We take care to always use separate cutting boards for meat and veggies, wash all tools thoroughly etc. etc. ad nauseam.

    We haven’t had food poisoning in our household, ever, despite not being vegetarian. But it might happen. No precautions are 100% proof. Not even going vegetarian.

  11. Matt G says

    Lettuce not rush to judgment until the science has a chance to ketchup.

  12. Curious Digressions says

    Let us know if bbq manages to hide the weird bitter taste.

    Germs aside, the idea that one wouldn’t wash meat slime off of one’s hands after handling it is off putting.

  13. says

    If you have to add enough salt and sugar to choke a horse (BBQ sauce, Ketchup) to make your meat substitute palatable, you may as well just eat the damned meat for protein.

  14. susans says

    Years ago I worked on a rent control campaign with someone who had worked in a Coca Cola bottling plant and he advised me to never drink from a can of soda without first rinsing the can. That was in the 80s and I have never opened an un-rinsed can since then.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    My tale of microbial testing has to do with where I worked. We often had trouble meeting microbial environmental testing due to an old building and questionable upgrades. One API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) we manufactured we had to quit making as as the drug product manufacturer, the one filling the vials for injection, could never validate that their newly built plant could pass FDA standards for environmental drug product sterility.