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I was watching the Great British Baking Show and a couple others and I noticed multiple instances where things were dropped on the floor and added back to the plate, or they taste with a spoon and then use the spoon to taste again later or stir or something. This would result in instant disqualification on Chopped or something like that.

Is that just a non-issue there, is the US just a bunch of pansies, do the US shows just edit some of it out, or is there something else going on i'm missing?

A friend of mine worked in a kitchen in London for a year, and mentioned that their health/cleanliness standards were quite high. I'm just wondering about the shows.

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    I have also noticed that on the Great British Baking Show -- I assumed that dropped items were put on the final plate just so they could say they'd cooked the correct number, but I hope (with no evidence) that the judges are warned "hey, please taste these ones in the front..." – Erica Nov 28 '18 at 23:32
  • @Erica I've seen the judges mention it ("uh oh, x dropped y"), then eat the one that I think fell. However, it's hard to track as things move around and the camera moves and cuts and whatnot. – Aethenosity Nov 28 '18 at 23:33
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    As someone very familiar with sterile technique, it seems that the British shows are taking things too far from the American extreme. I firmly believe that the commonly taught American techniques are overkill, quite literally, in some cases (like the temperature to cook a turkey or the temperature to reheat certain food items). – RudyB Nov 29 '18 at 2:40
  • @RudyB I could understand that. Honestly, besides the two things I mentioned, things seem reasonably handled, as far as temperatures and whatnot. – Aethenosity Nov 29 '18 at 4:57
  • The show ( of which I am a fan) is made for entertainment , not commercial production. And ( unrelated) the US has many more attorneys anxious to sue anyone for anything. – blacksmith37 Aug 29 at 19:04
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I would put this down to a number of factors - culture and location. The US is probably much more "Hygiene aware" due to the very high environmental temperatures found in some regions, unlike the UK, which is pretty temperate and generally a lot cooler. The US is also much more litigious than the UK, with extensive food safety warnings you would not normally find on UK/EU packaging. There is also a lot less fishing, hunting, shooting and homesteading culture in the UK, which would re-enforce core food safety values. I doubt if as many people here would be aware of botulism caused by garlic stored in oil for instance, or the discipline surrounding home canning. The lack of free universal healthcare in the US may also play a part, as a visit to the doctor is not cheap, and prevention being cheaper than cure. This all adds up to a greater sense of personal responsibility, whereas in the UK a stomach bug is casually dismissed almost as a rite of passage with a Gallic shrug (That dodgy pint of beer, kebab or curry after a night out etc.).

The "3 second rule" is pretty much a fact of life here rather than an urban myth, despite a somewhat biased study carried out by a floor mop manufacturer (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2138777/The-second-rule-fact-fiction-Scientists-reveal-food-dropped-floor-safe-eat.html). With a lot of people not cooking from scratch, and depending on take-away food or ready meals etc. this also prevents the adoption of best practices. I am considered totally OCD as I have a fridge, meat and gun thermometers I use when cooking. Not many people in the UK would be concerned with fridge temperatures, whereas in the US it is a much more critical issue etc.

The UK program probably just reflects these more "casual” values, I have seen both British and American chefs wear jewelry or rings on TV shows when handling food for instance, something that would be condemned in a professional environment either side of the pond.

Taking into account the temperatures and time required to record inside a television studio though, I wouldn't just be worried about the dropped food.

  • It's unlikely that people in the US are any more careful about food safety than people in the UK. According to the CDC (in the US) and the FSA (UK) per capita foodborne illness is about ten times higher in the US. My personal experience (as an American who cooks and knows other people who cook) suggests that thermometer use in home cooking is uncommon (maybe excluding candy making, fermentation and the like) and eating things that have touched the floor common. It may be the case that we're more litigious, but probably not any more cautious (when we're not in front of cameras) – Juhasz Aug 29 at 19:15
  • That is an eye-opening difference in per capita figures there, @Juhasz. It would be interesting to compare the per capita statistics for home cooked meals consumed versus food purchased in takeaways etc. to see if there is any relationship. I must admit I'm surprised, I would have thought the US would be slightly higher, but not by nearly as much. – Greybeard Aug 30 at 3:40
  • keep in mind that the reporting of these incidents might vary to a large degree between one country and the next. I'm not confident that there are actually ten times as many cases of foodborne illness here. Mainly, I brought up that statistic just to suggest that it's not obvious that American cooks are any more concerned than British cooks. – Juhasz Aug 30 at 15:46
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Not a complete answer, but I guess part of it may be that the bakers in GBB are amateurs, not professionals. Cooking shows where professional chefs, or chefs who wish to become professionals, compete hold to commercial safety standards. Amateurs, and those of us cooking and baking at home, can be a bit more relaxed (depending on your personal tolerance).

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    I really don't think so. I've seen it from professional British shows as well, and I've seen amateurs disqualified in US shows (never seen an amateur NOT disqualified for it). But that is something I hadn't considered, thanks – Aethenosity Nov 28 '18 at 22:34

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