Ban These Dangerous Swabs!

Thursday 26/5/2005

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Diary and Notes

I was reading today's (free) MetroNews on the bus this morning and there was an article claiming that a team of doctors from West Middlesex Hospital have called for the banning of long pointed end cooking knives on account of these being responsible for a number of accidents and fatal stabbings every year. There is also something about this on the BBC. Apparently they consulted 10 'top chefs' from around the country who claimed that these knives have no practical use at all - and so they should be banned.

I'm not sure how 'top' these 'top chefs' were but every chef I've ever seen on a TV program going about his business, was using a large pointy ended knife.

I have a selection of long pointy knives in the kitchen which I use for different purposes. The knife I use the most is a 15cm long Japanese sushi knife which has a very sharp pointy end. The pointy end is really useful when cutting things with thick skins as a little prick to make an incision really helps to get started. The researches claimed that being stabbed with one of these was like 'cutting into a ripe melon' - exactly my point, these knives are really good for cutting into ripe melons.

I also have a 28cm, pointy end Nordscan knife, which although a little unwieldy is fantastic for really 'heavy duty' jobs and will even cut through a coconut. There's a smaller 12cm Sabatier Judge knife (another good all round tool) and a 28cm carving knife I bought in Germany (this really is a deadly weapon, it is soft steel and though needs sharpening every time you use it gets a keen edge not dissimilar to that on a surgical scalpel).

The doctors recommend using small knives in the kitchen - have you ever tried chopping a melon with a small knife? They also argue that the ends of knives should be ground down, try boning a chicken without a pointy ended knife and see what a mess you make.

Why are doctors always trying to ban things? Almost every day there's a story about how a group of doctors want a particular sweet banned, or stiletto heels are making women's legs go out of shape and should be banned or drinking Coke should be illegal. I don't eat sweets, wear stillettos nor drink Coke but I have no right to impose a ban on them.

Preventable iatrogenic illness in hospitals account for around 40,000 deaths per year in the UK alone (see British Medical Journal), this being 2.2% of all hospital admissions, and we are only talking actual mistakes attributed to errors by hospital staff that are reported and found to be errors. 850,000 people going into hospital each year are the subject of accidents by doctors - wrong prescriptions, bad suturing, cutting off the wrong leg etc. Surgeons were so adept at leaving swabs inside people after operations that modern technology had to intervene to design swabs that dissolved harmlessly so as to prevent people dying.

Did any doctor ever argue for the banning of swabs? Are the tools of the doctors' trade to be made safer? Should we all avoid going into hospital?

I understand that on the whole doctors are trying to help people, but to always be calling for the banning of things is surely outside their remit. I agree that people should be informed as to what is dangerous and education about using and storing knives safely probably isn't such a bad thing, but banning them seems to be a little too far down the safety first road.


I didn't cook today but went for dinner around a friend's house. Chicken fajitas, very nice, they had a smokey taste that probably came from chipolte.

Cake Blog

Mini Caramel Shortbreads: From the 'Sainsbury's Taste The Difference' range. They should rename it the 'Taste the Sugar' range as that's what it was - really sickly and not good at all.


  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Salad

  • Booze