Mark Bittman Is Possibly Trying to Kill You (or Give You Botulism)

On Saturday, the New York Times removed a recipe for infused oils by Mark Bittman from its website because the instructions posed a potential Botulism risk. The recipe was quietly pulled after The NYTPicker contacted Bittman and dining section editor Pete Wells regarding the lack of food safety warnings.

Apparently, you're supposed to simmer the oil for at least five minutes (not "a minute or two" as Bittman said) and it should be kept, refrigerated, for only a week (not "a month or so"), otherwise there's the possibility of it becoming a breeding ground for Botulism, a serious paralytic illness. It's ultra-rare, but it happens.

On Tuesday, the recipe and associated article returned, but with corrections appended, The NYTPicker reported.

Hey, mistakes happen, and the Times did the right thing by immediately pulling the recipe and later posting the necessary corrections. Mark Bittman certainly wasn't trying to kill anyone — but this is a pretty severe lapse in recipe editing and fact-checking. The Times really can't afford to kill off any of its readers.

Problematically, there was also a related video in which Bittman repeats the incorrect instructions. You can easily edit a recipe after the fact, but a video is a little trickier. Without funny overdubbing and editing, or a costly reshoot, how do you add a correction to a video?

You add a correction to a video by:

  • adding a caption below the video that reads "Safety note: bubble oil for five minutes. Keep oil refrigerated and use within one week," and
  • overlaying subtitles that read "Oil should bubble for 5 minutes" and "CORRECTION: Use oil within one week" when the incorrect phrases are uttered.

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