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I have a question regarding cultural differences concerning food safety in the US vs Europe. From my personal experience, I have the impression that people in the U.S. are a lot more concerned about that than Europeans. Some examples are:

  • Warnings about the possible health hazards of the consumption of rare or undercooked egg (seen in the dining hall of a US university, the usual reaction of my friends being "meh, haven't ever had a problem with that. Probably just some Americans being worried about being sued for a ridiculous amount of damages...").
  • Questions on SA following the pattern of "I left food X at above/below Y°F for Z minutes. Is it still safe to eat?" (Where the °F always gives away the fact that the question must come from an American ;-) )

As a contrast, see traditional French cheese made from raw milk, or the German Mettbroetchen, which would probably be difficult to sell to an American audience.

I would like to ask whether there is any (scientific) information on the source of this difference, e.g. whether it is based on different hygienic standards for the raw materials, or more of a psychological thing. (Or even whether this difference actually exists or whether it is just an impression I got.)

Would this be on-topic? I'm not sure about that because it is about cooking culture instead of concrete recipes or techniques.

  • As a note, that warning about eggs is required by USDA law... It's not simply "being worried about being sued". – Catija Jan 26 '16 at 2:07
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The question you're trying to ask is not really about cultural differences in an interesting way. Americans are, largely, following food safety regulations or recommendations from government agencies when they say these things. So it doesn't reflect the overall culture, it's just a judgment of acceptable risk made by a given agency. In the end the only way to answer would be to know how those agencies made those evaluations, which while it might well have cultural differences, it's not really in the sense you seem to be looking for.

So for that reason, I think it's off-topic. Getting that deep into exactly how various food safety agencies determine what level of risk is acceptable just seems too far removed from cooking. Further, attempting to discuss how closely people adhere to those recommendations (and why) seems likely to be primarily opinion-based whether or not it's on-topic.


As for the question you asked in the title, I do think that questions about cultural differences in cooking are... sometimes on-topic. Some of them really don't have any culinary meaning, but some do.

We've previously had decent agreement that anthropology/history questions are on-topic: Anthropology versus Culinary questions and Are questions about the history of foods and cooking off-topic?

I don't want to make a blanket statement that anything to do with culture falls under that umbrella, but much of it does.

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Questions on cooking culture, which need knowledge in anthropology (especially "why" questions) are off topic. Something like "why do Americans think that eggs are a breakfast food" is unanswerable from a culinary point of view.

Food safety is on topic, so a question very similar to what you want to ask was asked this week. However, it is official food safety rules which are on topic, not people's beliefs about food safety. Your new question seems to be the second one, so it would be off topic. If it were the first, it would be a duplicate.

I would advise against asking it.

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    FYI there's previously been at least some agreement about anthropology and history being okay: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/a/1702/1672 and meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/q/1921/1672 – Cascabel Jan 25 '16 at 19:15
  • That said, I agree that this particular question seems bad. It's not about cooking, it's about government food safety regulations and recommendations (or lack thereof). I suppose answering it by saying "they're just listening to things their government food safety agency told them" would be an answer from a cooking culture perspective, but it's obviously not what the OP's looking for. – Cascabel Jan 25 '16 at 19:16
  • Thanks for the opinion! @Jefromi actually "they're just following their government's advice" is a good first step to an answer, though I would be interested in the reason for it. For my first example, the immediate answer might be "If we don't and anybody actually does get sick (even though it never happened and we follow best hygienic practices) we would get sued and would have to close shop." From there, it would probably lead to differences in the laws, and the way damages in the US justice system are so high that these signs become necessary (and the question become offtopic). – anderas Jan 25 '16 at 19:37
  • So I guess I'll only ask more specific questions, i.e. ones that are less likely to be opinion-based or lead to off-topic answers. – anderas Jan 25 '16 at 19:38
  • @anderas it's not only about opinion-based. "Why do people follow the advice of their government" has nothing to do with cooking whatsoever. It is a question for a sociologist. – rumtscho Jan 25 '16 at 19:47
  • @rumtscho that's why I wrote "or lead to off-topic answers" ;-) – anderas Jan 25 '16 at 20:15
  • How much risk is considered acceptable, and risking how grave a problem is acceptable, can be very much culturally defined - and finds its way into a culture's law and regulation making process. – rackandboneman Sep 21 '16 at 15:16
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I'm guessing that this is likely a question for the stack exchange lawyers, as there may be issues with giving less conservative advice on food safety -- I'm a little bit reluctant to post 'well, I'd still eat it', although I will occasionally with lots of warnings.

There are some food safety questions that are cultural that I believe would always be on-topic -- things like the Kosher restriction on the eating of scavengers is derived from concerns of food safety.

It's also possible that there will be contaminants that are common in some areas that aren't a problem world-wide ... although due to globalization, they'll likely spread to other areas unless there's something about the climate that's inhospitable to the contaminant.

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The reality of the modern (home or even pro cook) is one of global information (internet recipe sites, internationally sold coobkooks) and local regulations, safety myths (especially about what is edible or inedible raw - complicated by differing local farming and preservation practices) and recommendations. An asian or european recipe might suggest a practice that would be considered patently unsafe in the US, and vice versa. Adapting the recipe to local practice too heavy-handedly could in some cases jeopardize something that would actually be practically safe to do authentically, because there is knowledge applied that is outside some other region's canon or culture but scientifically sound.

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