Food Safety Expert: Ming Tsai

Ming Tsai

Ming Tsai’s love of cooking (and eating!) great food was forged while cooking alongside his mother and father at their family-owned restaurant. Ming owns Blue Ginger, his award-wining East-meets-West restaurant in Wellesley Massachusetts; hosts and is the executive producer of the public television cooking show, SIMPLY MING; and is the author of three cookbooks: Blue Ginger (Clarkson Potter, 1999), Simply Ming (Clarkson Potter, 2003), and Ming's Master Recipes (Simply Ming, 2005).

Ming is also a national spokesperson for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). He developed the Food Allergy Reference Book, a system to help restaurants serve their patrons who have food allergies. Ming worked with the Massachusetts Legislature to help write a law that requires local restaurants to comply with simple food allergy awareness guidelines.

Ming is a founding member of Chefs For Humanity and a proud member of Common Threads, the Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Round Table, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Cam Neely Foundation and Squashbusters. For more information on Ming, visit www.ming.com.

What is the single most important thing that can be done (by food growers, producers, government, consumers – any, or all of the above) to improve food safety in the United States?

M.T.: It’s tried and true for a reason: wash your hands. And, in any language, say the ABC’s twice while you’re doing it. Also, when you leave a bathroom, use a paper towel to turn the handle, and use your foot to keep the door open while you throw the towel away.

10 Commandments of Food Safety

Ming Tsai tells us whether he abides by the following food safety recommendations.

1. I use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep my food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F). M.T.: At Blue Ginger, yes, and [a thermometer] is built in the Sub-Zero fridges we use at home.

2. I always defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter. M.T.: Yes.

3. I always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods. M.T.: Definitely—especially because of food allergies, too, on cross contamination.

4. I always cook meat to proper temperatures, using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to make sure. M.T.: No, I love my burgers rare and my lamb and steak medium rare. I will be struck by lightning or chomped by a great white before undercooked meats get me!

5. I avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days. M.T.: No, I love the flavor of unpasteurized. See above for lightning and shark.

6. I never eat “runny” eggs or foods, such as cookie dough, that contain raw eggs. M.T.: No, again, shark and lightning. But at BG, we do use pasteurized eggs and egg whites for desserts (like sabayon and in the hollandaise we make once a year for the Greater Boston Food Bank's Super Hunger Brunch).

7. I always wash my hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs. M.T.: Yes, definitely!

8. I always heat leftover foods to 165ºF. M.T.: Yes.

9. I never eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables that have been left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures hotter than 90°F). M.T.: Fruits and veggies, fine. Meat and seafood, no! At BG, we are always very cognizant of the temperature danger zone; everything is refrigerated and/or cooled down properly.

10. Whenever there’s a food recall, I check products stored at home to make sure they are safe. M.T.: Yes.