While eating some tofu stew that had sat around for several hours, I read a chapter on kitchen hygiene and food safety in Raising Vegetarian Children, by Joanne Stepaniak, M.S. Ed., and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.
The chapter was 'An Ounce of Prevention: Food Safety for Vegetarians'
It's a good thing I'm fairly oblivious, and not prone to nightmares.
First, the section on kitchen hygiene: I'm glad that nobody has thought to report our kitchen to the Dept. of Health!
The communal towel (changed daily, but still...), not a paper towel in sight, the germ laden sponge, the all purpose dishcloth, used to spread bacteria over every surface. Tsk.
Then, there were four pages of charts on food-borne illnesses, and many more pages on where they lurk and grow, and how to prevent getting and spreading them.
I discovered that the Kingsbury's kitchen hygiene standards are only slightly better than those of the poorest third world country. It's amazing we're still alive!
I suspect that we're not the only ones, and that's not likely to change.
But here's some tofu safety advice from Joanne Stepaniak that we should take seriously. Most of it is a direct quote from her book, Raising Vegetarian Children:
'Tofu that is cooked or baked and vacuum sealed, or made and sold in aseptic packages' is safe for immediate consumption'
'...tofu that is packed in water and sold in tubs is a prime medium for breeding foodborne pathogens, especially if temperatures have been less than ideal during transport from the manufacturer to warehouse to store to home. Therefore this kind of tofu should never be used 'raw' in recipes...or fed directly to children.
Water-packed tofu must be boiled in water or steamed for five to ten minutes prior to using in order to destroy any potentially dangerous bacteria...'
Note: Cut in smaller chunks, for thorough heating up to 165 degrees. This pre-cooking is for when you're going to eat the tofu straight up or in a salad. If you were going to cook it anyway, just carry on with whatever you had planned.
'Some chldren and adults develop 'tofu tummy' - gas, bloating, cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, or diarrhea - after eating 'raw', water-packed tofu and come to the conclusion that they must be allergic to soy products or tofu.
This is not necessarily the case. 'Tofu Tummy' can mimic some of the symptoms of a food allergy, but it usually is attributable to mild to severe food poisoning caused by foodborne pathogens. With proper care, this can easily be averted.'
I should add that this was the only scary (but necessary) chapter in an excellent resource for parents and others - Raising Vegetarian Children, by Stefaniak & Melina.