Tuesday, June 30, 2009

UPDATE: NYT Corrects Bittman Article And Recipe, To Address Botulism Risk. But What About The Video?

WEDNESDAY A.M. UPDATE: Mark Bittman's video recipe for flavor-infused oils is now appearing on the front page of the NYT website -- with none of the food-safety warnings that now accompany his recipe and article on the subject in the print edition and online.

This means that a reader who follows only the directions provided by Bittman in the video -- which includes his suggestion that the oils can last for "a month or two," and his statement in passing that "I'd put it in the refrigerator" -- could be at risk for botulism. The corrections attached to the article and recipe that appear in the print edition tell readers to refrigerate immediately, and to dispose of the oils after a week, for food safety reasons.

Is it just too expensive for Bittman and the NYT to film another "Minimalist" video that offers safety tips along with the recipe, and reduces the risk of a NYT reader contracting botulism? Keeping NYT readers healthy strikes us as a worthwhile business expense.


After The NYTPicker raised concerns on Monday about Mark Bittman's potentially dangerous recipe for infused oils, posted online last Friday -- noting the possibility that it could create a risk for botulism -- Bittman has finally added food-safety warnings to the article this afternoon, and a correction has been appended to the recipe.

But they've forgotten to fix the "Minimalist" video version! It's still up there online, inappropriately advising NYT website users that it's okay to keep those oils in the refrigator a month or two, and making no mention of cooking times or food-safety concerns.

Hurry up with the fix, guys. This is a food safety issue, not a spelling error.

The article last Friday ballyhooed the idea that it's easy to make flavor-infused oils at home. But Bittman made it seem a bit too easy. He neglected to mention the danger of botulism that's created if the oils aren't properly heated or refrigated, and if they aren't disposed of within the proper time.

FDA recommendations about infused oils have been in place for two decades, ever since three botulism cases followed an improper preparation of a garlic-infused oil, and chefs routinely mention the food-safety concerns when offering recipes.

But not Bittman. His recipe said it was okay to keep the an infused oil mixture in the refrigerator for "a month or so," and didn't even suggest any food-safety issues existed around the notion of making infused oils at home.

Here's the new paragraph, added today:

Food safety experts recommend that you do not leave flavored oils at room temperature for more than two hours; refrigerate them, and use them within a week.

Why do food-safety experts recommend that? Well, maybe expecting Bittman to use the B-word is a little too much.

Then there's this correction to the recipe, which was taken down from the website shortly after The NYTPicker contacted Bittman and Pete Wells, editor of the NYT's Dining section, on Sunday:

An updated recipe with the Minimalist column, about infused oils, corrects two errors that appeared in the recipe when it was published at nytimes.com on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The online recipe misstated the amount of time the oil should cook after it bubbles and the length of time it is safe to use after being refrigerated. The oil should be cooked five minutes, not “a minute or two,” and it should be kept in the refrigerator no more than a week, not “a month or so.”

UPDATE: Oh, wait. The video's still there, but with this note in the caption:

Safety note: bubble oil for five minutes. Keep oil refrigerated and use within one week.

Maybe we missed it, or maybe it wasn't there. Either way, it presumes that everyone reads the captions to the videos. Which they don't. Is that really how the NYT wants to address a safety issue in a video recipe? Seems a little lazy to us.

No comments: