HR Strange But True!
April 08, 2010

Research in Europe, the home of haute cuisine, may pose a profound workplace safety conundrum and a shift for chefs. The news is so unsettling, we may see the issue covered by Julie Powell on The Food Network instead of on CNN. And will we see Rachel Ray wearing a respirator?

New research, covered by Occupational and Environmental Medicine on its website and by Safety and Health magazine, said that pan-frying or sautéing meat may be harmful to the health of cooks—especially when using a gas stove!

Now if you are an aficionado of cooking shows on TV, you lust for a Viking stove, or you love to peak into kitchens at restaurants, you know that chefs just don’t cook on an electric range. They love to finely tune the blue gas flames to the exact height to sear their meat entrees to perfection.

But the study shows that the wafting aroma of the culinary creations contains nasty “mutagenic compounds” called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and puts chefs in proximity to breathe in particulates of aldehydes and naphthalene —all possibly carcinogenic.

The “fumes” were tested using butter, margarine, or soybean oil to fry the meat with somewhat similar results. However, there was more of a difference when meat was cooked on electric versus gas stove because cooking with gas creates fumes with particulates that are more ultrafine than those created when cooking with electricity.

Yes, we know that Julia Child lived to be 92. But will Top Chefs and Iron Chefs have to choose between their stoves and their respiratory health? Will OSHA become involved? We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, bon appétit!

Source: Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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