Danger Zone: Mexican Hangover Meets the DOH


On this sunny Monday, EfV is suffering the after-effects of an overly zealous Mexican dining extravaganza in Sunset Park. Looking back on last night’s observation of the glove-free, not-too-neat kitchen, which we observed while waiting for the ladies’ room, we were forced to wonder whether this ill hangover could be food poisoning. But our date, with whom we shared dinner, informed us her stomach had “come back like a lion” today, so it seems we have no one to blame but our own piggy self. Still, it seemed like a good moment to pick up on our Food Protection studies. Remember, the DOH’s online food handler’s course, which will earn you a certificate, is only free till New Year’s Eve.

As the course progresses, we are learning more and finding the lessons less obvious, but the whole thing reminds us of a bad history teacher you’d have in 8th grade. You emerge having memorized the dates of a bunch of wars, but you don’t know why the two countries were enemies to begin with or how they made up. Similarly, we now know that the “danger zone” for potentially hazardous foods is between 41 and 140 degrees, but we don’t really understand what botulism is. Anyway, here are some other things we learned today:

A cause for rejecting fresh meats may include meat with brownish, greenish, or black discoloration, purple blotches; slimy, sticky, or dry texture; torn or broken packaging; any off odors. Poultry must be rejected if the following conditions are found: stickiness under wings and joints, soft flesh, purplish or greenish color, green discoloration around neck or blackened wing tips, and any off odors.

That part about the stinky chicken armpits did not mix well with our fried bean tostada! Another fun fact: the sous vide cooking method, made world-famous by Hung on Top Chef, but beloved long before that, is not banned outright in New York anymore. Restaurants have to obtain permission to make your chicken super delectable and moist:

Modified Atmosphere Packaged Foods
Various food items are packaged under special conditions to prolong their shelf life. These conditions include:

1. Food is placed in a package and all the air is withdrawn – vacuum packaging.
2. Food is placed in a package, all the air is withdrawn and gases are added to preserve the contents – modified atmosphere packaging.
3. Food is placed in a package, all the air is withdrawn and the food is cooked in the package – sous vide packaging.

Because of the absence of air, foods packaged in this manner provide ideal conditions for the growth of the Clostridium botulinum micro-organism, unless they are refrigerated at temperatures recommended by the manufacturer.

These products must be purchased from approved sources and care taken to preserve the packaging during handling and when taking the temperature.

Food Establishments interested in manufacturing “modified atmosphere packaged foods” must first obtain permission from NYC DOHMH.

We are curious how difficult that is. Please write in if you have gone though the process at your restaurant!