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There was a recent answer which says

If that were the case, adding some preservative on your own could help; but preservative dosing takes you out of the realm of Official FDA Recommendations and is thus out-of-scope for this site.

Is this actually the case? If so, why? There is no close option to say it's off-topic on the basis of not being within the realm of FDA recommendations.

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  • I've searched Meta and can't find other references to questions about preservatives being off-topic. We might want to make them off-topic (or not), but either way it would be a new decision.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 0:07
  • I also don't think we have ever created rules on preservatives specifically; as part of food safety and food preservation, they are by default on-topic, and we have never closed questions just because they are about preservatives. Now that you have raised the topic, it is a good idea to decide if we want to do it in the future, or not. I am posting three options I can think of, as separate answers, to enable voting. I numbered my suggestions for convenience, if commenters want to refer to them. Others are welcome to post more, and vote on all of them.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 11:08

4 Answers 4

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Argument: they should be on-topic. They're about cooking for humans, and there is referencable, online, authoritative material recommending preservatives which can be quoted in answers.

See my answer to the vinagrette question for an example.

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  • I agree with you, there are home chefs who use gums, practice molecular gastronomy with all sorts of unusual stuff and those are all on topic, some home cooks want to use preservatives, so on topic.
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 7:45
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Suggestion R2 We can write up a canonical question and start closing all these additional questions as duplicates. A canonical answer to that question could then explain the erroneous thinking behind the question, and try to systematically give some knowledge on the basics of food preservation.

Advantages:

  • when answering each question separately, bad answers snuck in easily and confuse people, or require active interaction and have the potential to cause drama.
  • when answering each question separately, people sometimes write a great answer under one of them, that is applicable to any of these homemade recipes - but it stays there, and is not seen by the people who write or read the other threads.
  • sometimes these questions attract only 1-2 answers, which don't cover the full gamut of options. Pooling the answers in one canonical question helps the askers by enabling access to more information
  • We can invest the time to write a thorough, educating, well-structured answer for a canonical question.
  • It leaves us the flexibility to leave questions open in the edge cases where there is a better answer. For example, there is a formula for how much salt to add when making sauerkraut, in order to create a safely preserved product.
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  • I like this one best, it's the same model as 'I left my [insert food item here] overnight, will I die if I eat it?' We don't get this many questions about preservation, but we get enough to make this make sense.
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 11:30
  • This would be fine, EXCEPT how do we distinguish which questions do actually have an individual answer? In a lot of cases, if there's a referencible individual answer, there's only going to be one or two members of SA who know it. This would result in some questions that could have been answered getting closed as duplicate.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 22:51
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Suggestion R1: We can leave the questions open, and let each of them get answered separately. The answers will pretty much always cover the same ground - give the project up, or use a freezer, or pay a commercial lab to do the testing for your specific recipe, or make something else out of it (e.g. add enough acid and salt so the salad turns into a pickle), etc.

This is how we have been doing it until now. The advantages: It is the path of least resistance, and requires no additional rule-creation, and it needs no work to set up. Disadvantages: the usual ones of leaving practically-duplicates staying around open (see the list of advantages on R2 for an incomplete list).

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Suggestion R3 We can postulate that, since there is no way that a straight answer to the question will satisfy food safety guidelines (to my knowledge, the FDA has never approved a preservative-based method for home use), the question is inherently opinion-based, since it uses a definition of "safe" that is based on a personal judgement. In that case, these questions would have to be closed, not because they are out of scope, but because they are opinion-based.

I am adding this option because I believe it was the line of thinking in the post that prompted the question. Advantage: It makes it clear to users that we do not want answers based on personal conviction, like "Just throw in 0.5% of magiconium wondrate and you're good". The disadvantages are: a lot of frustration to the askers, and missing the opportunity to explain to them why their mental model of food preservation is wrong.

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