Food Safety

Sous vide cooking: are food safety fears grounded?

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Sous vide cooking: are food safety fears grounded?

Related tags Cooking Food

A lack of knowledge about the potential safety implications of sous vide cooking has sparked concern from experts, as new research claims many recipes don’t follow the recommended food safety guidelines.

Sous vide cooking – vacuum sealing produce and slow-cooking it in a water bath at a relatively low temperature – experienced a boom in interest over the past few years, largely thanks to a number of high-profile chefs extolling its benefits.

But, despite more operators cooking dishes sous vide, there are fears as to whether cooking some products (specifically meats) sous vide can be properly safeguarded to ensure diners’ safety.

A new report from food and drink innovation specialist Campden BRI has found that sous vide recipes do not always follow the recommended food safety guidelines.

Cooking meat in marinades was of a particular concern, as a liquid layer between the product and the inner surface of the vacuum bag the product is cooked affects the time taken for the core to reach a safe cooking temperature, the report said.


Yet, it was the responsibility of food businesses to ensure safety regulations were being met, a Food Standards Agency (FSA) spokesperson said.

“It is the responsibility of the food business to ensure that the temperature and time combination they choose when cooking using the sous vide method is sufficient to control any hazards associated with the product, including any harmful bacteria that may be present,” the FSA said.

“They must provide evidence to food enforcement officers to show that the procedures and controls in place are safe and appropriate, including that a sufficient heat treatment has been used to minimise such risks.”

One major worry was that certain bacteria present in many foods, whilst not harmful by themselves, can produce highly poisonous toxins when they are deprived of oxygen – as is the case when products are vacuum packed to be cooked sous vide – that could potentially lead to botulism.


The issue was thrust into the spotlight in recent years when consumer magazine Wallpaper ​published a list of ‘cutting edge’ cooking techniques, including sous vide and curing, for its readers to try.

This list was criticised in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s ​sister title Food Manufacture​ by food safety specialist Jo Head, who said there were potential health worries.

However, Mary Dan Eades, co-founder of Sous Vide Supreme, hit back at these claims, telling Food Manufacture​: “To single out sous vide cooking and imply people must be extra cautious or run the risk of botulism is simply incorrect.”

The cooked method had been used for several decades and was completely safe for commercial and home use, she added.

To date, there have been no recorded cases of botulism attributed to sous vide cooking. In fact, the last recorded case of botulism in the UK was in 1989, when a diner was poisoned by eating yoghurt that contained dangerous bacteria.

Symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids and difficulty swallowing and speaking. 

Related topics News

Related news

Show more