I have thoughts about the pending sous-vide ban for restaurant use by Health Departments almost daily now. There is no known legislature that I have seen that attempts to regulate the use of it instead of blindly and ignorantly forbidding its use. The end result of all of this will probably fall on chefs who choose self-regulation in hopes that the government will copy European protocol on the issue.
I was cleaning papers off my desk (there were quite a bit) and came across a short article by Heston Blumenthal in the Guardian that talks about brining. The article dates back to 2005. When posting about brining salmon for sous-vide a week ago, I also had a thread of thought that somehow a brine could be used to create a semi-sterile environment for meats and fish that were going to be vacuum sealed... thereby reducing or eliminating the threat of anaerobic bacteria. The two ideas merged through destiny when I came across the printed article. Blumenthal writes very briefly about brining here, but states that they have been using saltpetre in their brines for 2 or 3 years. He says that saltpetre is 'the only substance known to prevent botulism.' If this is true, then I am wondering how much saltpetre is needed by percentage in a salt solution to prevent botulism from happening? Also, is this amount of saltpetre enough to greatly effect the appearance or texture of the meat? Chef Heston states that they commonly use it in their brines... so if not for the bacterial fighting qualities, then maybe for some other advantage... more vibrantly colored meat?
Does anyone else out there have information on this? Is there a miniscule amount of saltpetre that could be used in a brine for meat, so that the meat could be vacuum sealed, cooked sous-vide, and served without the threat of botulism ever being present? Also, does this method work for other anaerobic bacteria like listeria or clostridium perfringens?
This could be the loophole!