Oops! A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior has found that many television cooking shows overlook safe food handling practices. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of consumers say they get their food safety information from the media—meaning they’re not getting much information at all.

These shows are an important resource for home cooks, but the poor food safety practices demonstrated on these programs may lead to poor practices and foodborne illness among consumers who watch them. That’s why researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst set out to assess food safety on television shows to discover whether they present positive or negative models. The results were not encouraging.

A press release from the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) quotes lead study author Dr. Nancy L. Cohen as saying, “the majority of practices rated were out of compliance or conformance with recommendations in at least 70 percent of episodes, and food safety practices were mentioned in only three episodes. Only four practices were observed to be in compliance or conformance with recommendations in more than 50 percent of the episodes. For most behaviors observed, the percentage of shows in conformance with recommended practices was much lower than that seen in restaurant employees and consumers in general.”

Why does it matter? Because, according to SNEB, more than 70 percent of consumers say they obtain food safety information from media, and 22 percent of those used cooking shows as their primary source of information. Only 33 percent of consumers said they trusted the government for food safety information, whereas more than half trusted media. What’s more, 50 percent of respondents in a poll of television viewers said they watched some television cooking shows, and 57 percent reported purchasing items based on those shows.

At the same time, according to the SNEB press release, consumers are paying less attention to safe food preparation practices in recent years. For example, fewer consumers reported washing hands before handling food, cooking to required temperatures, or separating meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods in 2011 than in 2008 or 2010. MORE INFORMATION