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This is Milton Cross bringing you another chapter in the story of Empire County, brought to you by the New York State Health Department and produced by the state radio bureau. Today's story, "The Case of the Careless Cook". Dr. Walter Bell, health commissioner of Empire County, was in bed early for a change, even though it was the night of the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. He had made his apologies, beg to be excused. And by 9:00, he was fast asleep. Then came midnight. Oh, oh, I know nothing about this assignment at the county hospital. All right, Doctor, sorry to disturb you. What's happened? They just brought the mayor and his wife, the head of the Chamber of
Commerce, told the commissioners, Lord, what is it? Food poisoning and bad. How did happen where the Chamber of Commerce dinner that. Sure. Every case with someone at the banquet. Oh, I'll be right down. I'll see you in about 20 minutes. Oh, I've got to sit down for a moment, talk to them. Of course, Dr. Simons, I want to a friend I don't suppose you can tell yet just what type of food poisoning this is. No, no, not yet. Our sanatoriums and bacteriologists are on the job testing all the food served at the banquet. We'll just have to wait on the results before for sure. But I'd be willing to hazard a guess that it was Staphylococcus outbreak. Signs seem to point to it the fact that the symptoms appeared so early within three hours after the meal was over points in that direction. Yes, that's right. And as you know, Dr. Simons, outbreaks usually come in one of two ways. The food eaten may contain living bacteria, which, after they are taken into the body, grow and produce toxins, poisons.
The other way is by food that contains toxins formed by bacteria even before it's even as I'd rule out, the first possibility here, because the onset of symptoms was so rapid, it seems fairly obvious that whatever caused this outbreak was some food to contain toxins even before it was eaten. And your guess is that it was due to Staphylococcus. I know that's my pick. At any rate, we'll follow through along that line. Does it look as though any of the cases may prove extremely serious? Oh, no, no, I don't think so. Staphylococcus food poisoning, while very unpleasant, is rarely too serious. We're doing what we can to replace lost fluids and salt, and we're providing symptomatic treatment as indicated. Well, you seem to have things under control here. I I'd better get over to the restaurant, see what's going on in that department. That's a good idea. Are you going to. I think I'll try to steal a catnap. Well, you tell me, how can it be my beautiful kitchen, my kitchen
so clean one can see his face on my pots that are designed to show that it is impossible? I'm afraid it's not, Joseph. Twenty five of your guests have already been brought into the Catholic hospital. Oh, right. It cannot be. You see for yourself, my kitchen. It is how you say spit in spot, spick and span. But Joseph, food poisoning doesn't necessarily mean that the food was prepared in a dirty kitchen. Now there are many ways food can become contaminated by bad refrigeration. But now I had the little I know, I know. And I'm perfectly aware, Joseph, that your restaurant, sanitation and refrigeration facilities are excellent, but something went wrong. Now, let's find out what now what was the menu tonight? The menu, monsiuer le doctor, believe me, it was fit for the gods. Yeah, I will tell you first, oysters casino. You sure they were fresh? Monsieur le doctor. Believe me, this morning, those oysters were sleeping in the ocean. I had them hipped by airplane special. All right. Next? Petite marmite soup. Yes? Frogs' legs provencal, the specialty of the house. Mmm-hmm. Filet mignon popular with broccoli, potatoes au gratin, mixed green salad, Roquefort
cheese dressing. For dessert, baked Alaska, demitasse. Quite a meal. Could the King eat better. What not. Well, Mr. Bates, the bacteriologist from my office, took samples of everything, didn't he? Everything. Well, we'll know more when we get the results of our questioning of all the guests in our laboratory examinations. Monsieur le doctor, I am disconsolate. My heart breaks. I, I, I. [music] I'm sure Dr. Bill absolutely positive. I've tested everything they sent to Joseph that night up to and including the ketchup and no sign of anything that would produce more than a hiccup. And we've talked with most of the guests, both those who got sick and those who didn't. And so far, we haven't turned up a constant lead. Of course, the laboratory slides confirm a hunch of staphylococci food poisoning, but it just does not add up. No, it certainly doesn't.
And on top of that, the president of the Chamber of Commerce has been burning up the telephone, wants me to shut up the restaurant and send Joseph to the nearest leprosarium. Well, so now it's a question of what's next. Well, get your hat and come along. Where are we going? To Josef's. I want to take another look around. Joseph, are you sure? Now look at this list again, is this the entire menu complete? But sure, I'm sure, certainment. The dinner party, this is the way I prepare food like each guest was a king. And for this banquet mon dieu, I excelled myself. Oysters, I flew in. Mushrooms I get special from Pennsylvania. Even Andre, my poor, poor Andre even he might make some special. Who's Andre? You do not know Andre the famous Andre. Graduate of The Cordon Bleu school in Paris. The Master. Yes, but what's he got to do with the banquet?
I called him. Begged on my knees on the telephone I begged. Andre, I begged, Andre this is for me you must do. No, noone can make a hollandaise like you. I said it so sweetly so he came. Also for fifty dollars. Hollandaise? You mean hollandaise sauce. But of course, Andre... Hollandaise sauce wasn't on the list you gave me, Joseph. Bates, did we check on any hollandaise sauce? No, we didn't. I did not tell you? I did broccoli, naturally. Hollandaise sauce. How is the hollandaise sauce made? Why? Why Andre has his own special way. He does not get the recipe to anyone. But no, it is like the atom bomb, only more secret. You watched him. How do you make it? Well, I try to think. Let me see. He used a double boiler. Yes. Now in the top, first, he put in the egg yolk. He beat them just so, until they were thick. Then a little boiling water, beat the eggs again, more water, more beating. Yes, yes, go on then. Then hot lemon juice, then melted butter, a soupcon,
a whisk paprika, a pinch of cayenne. Then he added a little cream. So sounds pretty delicate. But yes, there are not three chefs in America who can make a perfect hollandaise and Andre is the master. He came. Sick, poor man, when I asked, he came. Sick? Oh not sick really. But it's such a thing. For what? Oh, his finger. A boil. A boil? Joseph, how soon after Andre made the hollandaise sauce, was it served? Poor man. He made it in the morning. It was the thing that he departed. Toute suite. Oh. What did you do with the sauce from the time he made it until it was served? Was it, was it kept in the refrigerator? Put hollandaise in the refrigerator? Dr. Bell. would sooner keep my wife in a broom closet than put hollandaise in a refrigerator. But no, it was kept on the back of the stove where it was not too hot, not too cold. Just right. Just right is right. Hmmm, a perfect culture, staphylococci must have bred like wildfire. Mon dieu ... that is, how you call it, what you call it?
Joseph? There was something else on your menu you forgot to tell me about. What? A couple of billion germs, staphylococci, germs. Now tell me, Joseph, if one of your employees was sick, would you let him in the kitchen? I wouldn't let them in the restaurant? If one of my people just sniffled. Oh, my order. But Andre was sick. Now, why did you let him in the kitchen. Andre? Sick, but no. What about the boil on his fingers? Oh, yeah. Poof, a boil. "Poof, a boil?" That boil was festering, meaning Joseph, it contained millions of virulent germs. Little microscopic outlaws called staphylococcal. And look what happened. In handling the food that went into the sauce accidentally, of course, some of these germs from Andre's boil landed into the hollandaise he was preparing. Now, if the food had been boiled, they would have been killed. If the food had been properly refrigerated, they couldn't have multiplied. They would have died. No. No, the food went in the back of the stove. Perfect temperature for the germs to multiply. In a few short hours, those first few little germs were millions.
And as they grew, each germ made a little bit of toxin. And this toxin is what made the people sick. That's what you fed your guests. Doctor Ben, you are you are having a joke. No, no, it's no joke. Thirty people can testify to that. I do not know. Of course you didn't know, Joseph. No one has ever said this was anything deliberate, but the responsibility for it is yours nevertheless. And as the owner of a public eating place, you supposed to know these things and see that they never happen. They won't, I swear. Never again, doctor, I- In my restaurant, my beautiful restaurant, I who serve food fit for a king, I serve staphy- staphy- how do you say it? Staphyloccus. Staphy, staphy, hollandaise sauce with staphy- Well, that clears up that mystery Dr. Bell. Yeah. What are you going to do about Joseph's, padlock the place?
Oh, no, I don't think so. He's learned his lesson, I'm sure. It won't happen again. You see, but that's not the point. I'm just wondering whose fault it is. Well, what do you mean? I mean, who's to blame for this happening in the first place? Well, perhaps it's me. You? Uh huh. It it's my job to educate people about these things, to prevent them from happening. That's the answer. Tomorrow, we'll start making arrangements to set up a food handler's school so that things like this don't happen again will set up a regular program of demonstrations, films and talks. We'll try to show these people the right way to handle food. They must learn that the same food that nourishes us also can nourish the organisms that bring us disease. People can't afford to be careless about food. Now, in my book page, the two of the greatest criminals in the world have one thing in common carelessness. One is the careless driver. The other is the careless cook. With this broadcast, the New York State Health Department brings to an end its current
Story of Empire County
Episode Number
The Case of the Careless Cook
Producing Organization
New York (State). Department of Health
Columbia Records, Inc.
Contributing Organization
WNYC (New York, New York)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
On this episode of A Story of Empire County, Health Commissioner, Dr. Walter Bell investigates a case of food poisoning. He receives a call that all the attendees at a Chamber of Commerce dinner are suffering from staphylococcal food poisoning. After interviewing the chef he determines that the contamination occurred from a boil on the finger of a guest chef who was preparing hollandaise sauce. Bell determines that he must set up a food handler's school. [A Story of Empire County aired between 1950 and 1953]
Episode Description
1s. 16in. Reverse side: Facts Over Fear, see 150653.
Other Description
"This is a series of programs to promote better public health, and to encourage wider understanding of the work of public health officers. The entire series is built around the problems of fictitious Dr. Walter Bell, Health Commissioner of 'Empire County'. This series was presented during the spring of 1949 on forty-five New York stations, located in all sections of the state."--1949 Peabody Digest.
Created Date
Asset type
Public Service Announcement
Public health.; Health.; Food.
Owner/Custodial History: Municipal Archives; Acquisition Source: Municipal Archives; Terms of Use and Reproduction: Municipal Archives
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Embed Code
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Announcer: Cross, Milton, 1897-1975
Producing Organization: New York (State). Department of Health
Producing Organization: Columbia Records, Inc.
Speaker: Bell, Walter
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 150770.1 (WNYC Media Archive Label)
Format: BWF
Generation: Transcription disc
Duration: 00:00:00
Identifier: 150770.2 (WNYC Media Archive Label)
Format: BWF
Generation: Transcription disc
Duration: 00:00:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: 49022edr-4-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
Format: Grooved analog disc
Generation: Transcription disc
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Chicago: “Muni; Story of Empire County; 15; The Case of the Careless Cook,” 1949-00-00, WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
MLA: “Muni; Story of Empire County; 15; The Case of the Careless Cook.” 1949-00-00. WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2022. <>.
APA: Muni; Story of Empire County; 15; The Case of the Careless Cook. Boston, MA: WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from