Don’t ‘single out’ sous vide botulism risk, says firm

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cooking

Don’t ‘single out’ sous vide botulism risk, says firm
Sous Vide Supreme has hit back after published an article in which a food safety expert warned that homemade sous vide food could cause botulism.

Dr Jo Head expressed concerns to this publication​ after consumer magazine Wallpaper ​published an article recommending sous vide or ‘under vaccum’ as a food preparation technique.

In the hands of an “unsuspecting consumer”​ ignorant of the scientific principles involved, the cooking method could lead to botulism, Head warned.

But describing herself as a “physician and nutrition expert”​, the co-founder of Sous Vide Supreme (which produces sous vide ovens) Mary Dan Eades MD, told “We dispute Dr Jo Head’s statement that ‘sous vide in the hands of an unsuspecting consumer could lead to botulism’”

This “extremely general statement”​ could apply to any type of food preparation technique, Eades said, “from baking to barbecue and tossing a green salad”.

Gross leap

“To single-out sous vide cooking and imply people must be extra cautious or run the risk of botulism is simply incorrect,”​ Eades added.

She said: “The article makes a gross leap in suggesting consumers will approach a cooking technique new to them without any pause to follow the recommended cooking guidelines.”

Eades said the piece “unnecessarily conjured-up fears for a well-respected cooking technique”​ current for several decades and safe for home or commercial kitchen use.

Nonetheless, as with any cooking technique, it was essential that consumers using sous vide follow basic rules for safe food handling, she added.

These involve thoroughly washing ingredients, proper cooking and storage to avoid food-borne illness.

Temperature and time

Eades also disputed Head’s assertion that low temperatures associated with sous vide require food products to be handled extremely carefully.

“This is false. Food cooked sous vide, according to recommended cooking times and temperatures, does not require any “extra” food handling safety steps as a precaution during preparation, cooking, or storage,”​ Eades said.

She added: “What the article fails to note is that making food safe to eat by cooking it is a function of both temperature and time.”

While sous vide temperatures were typically lower than traditional cooking techniques, Eades noted that cooking times are generally much longer, which “reduces the risk of botulism as well as any other non-sterilizing cooking method”​.

According to Eades, the only botulism concern relating to sous vide arises due to incorrect storage after vacuum sealing and before consumption.

But she pointed out that this is also an issue for improperly stored canned or cooked foods.

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Sous vide dangers greatly exaggerated

Posted by Robert Jueneman,

I completely agree with both Dr. Eades and Frank Hsu, the previous commenter. Compared to traditional cooking techniques, such as cooking a hamburger on a grill, sous vide techniques can greatly reduce the danger of various kinds of food poisoning.

The danger of botulism, primarily caused by the misuse of cook-chill techniques are very well described by authors as Douglas Baldwin, in his very widely read 'Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking' ( This clearly points out both the benefits and some potential dangers of sous vide cooking, and it is very unlikely that someone who is entering into sous vide cookery would not be aware of these resources.

As someone who has been using sous vide for nearly five years, I find Dr. Head to be greatly exaggerating the potential dangers. I hope that others will agree.

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Sous vide is also a pasteurizing cooking technique.

Posted by Frank Hsu,

Sous vide is more than just a cooking technique. It is also a valuable tool to ensure pasteurization with specifically chosen temperature and time by food scientists, so food can be make safer with sous vide. Traditional cooking methods are a hit and miss method to ensure food safety.

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