New Meat Vending Machine Is a Recipe for Food Poisoning

raw steakIt's like something out of Homer Simpson's daydreams: a vending machine at the Kwik-E-Mart that dispenses pork chops. Mmmmm, convenience steak! Actually, it's called the Smart Butcher, and it's popping up at convenience stores with fresh, raw cuts of steak, sausage, and other ready-to-cook cuts. Everything costs under $6 and you can use cash, credit, or debit. People love it so far.

What could possibly go wrong? Let me count the ways, starting with how this looks like a food poisoning outbreak waiting to happen. Who likes vomiting just as much as convenience meats? Because that's where this is headed.

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When you buy food at the grocery store, you're in that "careful with the food" mindset. When you're buying it in a totally different context, it's easier to forget meat safety protocol. Unfortunately, when it comes to food, if you cut corners with the price and convenience, you're going to pay the price somewhere down the line with quality.

So here's how I see this going down. Smart Butcher people tell convenience store owners what temperature to keep the vending machines, but the message doesn't get to all the clerks because half of them are goofy high-school students or underpaid, disgruntled adults. Or, the machine's refrigeration starts to slip ever so slightly and no one notices because checking it isn't part of the routine. Or, the convenience store gets some contaminated meat but figuring out where it came from after people get sick becomes impossible.

Really, just about any time you take perishable food into new territory, you are opening yourself up to new risks for foodborne illnesses. What's the routine for handling this meat? Is everyone who touches it adequately trained to handle it the right way? And what about the people who buy a steak when they go in for gas, then pick up the kids from soccer, then stop by the hardware store, and then forget about the steak altogether?

Hope vending machine meat fans all have iron bellies.

Do you think meat vending machines are a good idea or a disaster waiting to happen?

 

Image via VirtualErn/Flickr

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