Q: If the chef wiped his arse on this lovely piece of steak before cooking it for you, should you worry?
(i)Yes, (ii) no or (iii) it depends?
You should worry.
There is a legal requirement in the UK that food-handlers are trained in food hygiene, so you can eat steak safe in the knowledge that someone hasn’t wiped their arse on it.
“But what’s wrong with wiping your arse with steak?”, I hear you cry.
Germs! That’s what’s wrong. Science has told us that much. There’s lots of things science has told us about handling raw meat, from the temperature it’s safe to keep it at, to the temperature it should be cooked to. We know about how best to handle raw meat. Thanks science!
Science didn’t stop at steak shaped meat though, it looked at all shapes of raw meat.
There’s one type of raw meat it knows an awful lot of stuff about. The raw meat that walks into your office, sits down, and starts to do their job. Yes! Meat so fresh it’s still walking around. Human shaped meat!
Despite knowing an awful lot about how human meat reacts to things, when it is alive anyway, there are very little regulations based on science governing how you handle it in the workplace.
Any old fool can work with human meat, completely ignorant of the science of how to treat it.
You can do ALL sorts with human shaped meat that you couldn’t do with a steak. Yet the results can be far worse.
Look at what happens if you muck around with meat-shaped-meat…
Science says that storing raw meat at room temperature allows germs to multiply rapidly, and cause harm to and possibly kill people who eat it
The law says that if you do that, you’ll likely be prosecuted.
But look at what happens if you muck around with human-shaped-meat…
Science says that targets cause people to achieve targets, regardless of the terrible side effects.
The law says…nothing. Using it in the NHS caused people to die.
You can get away Scott free! With killing people! It turns out that science is optional when it comes to managing people. The effects of poorly managing people, using opinion instead of knowledge, can kill people just as surely as if you feed them under-cooked burgers.
It is entirely optional to use the best knowledge about how humans behave, and if you choose fads over knowledge, then there are no consequences other than the consequences that OTHER people suffer. Staff, customers and bystanders.
This first occurred to me when I was in a meeting with colleagues who started suggesting some kind of prize scheme to encourage staff suggestions. I was shocked that we hadn’t got beyond this by now. This is among the known knowns!
“The fact that there is little evidence to show that money motivates us, and a great deal of evidence to suggest that it actually demotivates us, supports the idea that that there may be hidden costs associated with rewards.” [link]
Turns out though, that knowledge of what works is limited to people who have to do work that can be observed directly.
A gas engineer has to know the science behind soldering, so she can join pipes and stop leaks. If a gas engineer accidently does the wrong thing, someone could die and they are responsible for ensuring that they KNOW the science behind their job as they cannot work unless they hold the right qualifications.
But a manager need know nothing about the science of how gas engineers are managed best. If a manager in charge of administering a team of gas engineers does the wrong thing by setting timeslots for particular types of work, and designing the work of gas engineers that causes them to do the wrong thing, well there is plenty of evidence that this doesn’t work. But this doesn’t stop them.
A basic food handling certificate is needed to handle food safely. But if you want to muck about with meat, make sure it’s human shaped then you can get away with murder.