Food That Makes Me Sad: Raw Fish on a Conveyor Belt

Four foods that would make excellent conveyor belt fare.

Yesterday’s story on a new conveyor belt sushi restaurant got me thinking about the horror stories I’ve heard about conveyor belt sushi. It’s raw fish, in a covered container, moving around a track at room temperature. Anyone can grab a bowl or put it back and no one seems to know how long each bowl may have been going round and round.

It’s hard to ignore the obvious food borne illness risks involved in something like conveyor belt sushi: Fish is supposed to be stored in a cool environment, or over ice or cooked to 145 degrees. Instead, this sushi is left out to move around in the open air, for hours at a time. Bacteria in fish thrive at room temperature. (Prospective dates, be forewarned: nothing turns me off more than warm raw seafood.)

I’m a bit of a mysophobe, so I also have to mention the general sanitary risks that plague a product like this. They are essentially the same as those at a buffet, except here, there’s no sneeze guard. That clear plastic lid atop your California bowl at the kaiten sushi joint? It could contain anything from salmonella to the flu virus.

Here now, four items I actually would like to see moving on a conveyor belt, which I think of as a modern form of the automat.

1. Produce at the farmers’ market. Sure, there’s something charming about strolling the aisles of your local market, but wouldn’t it be more fun if everything moved around, around you? It could be like picking your luggage up at the airport after a flighta rush to grab the right bag before it’s carried away. Plus, you’re going to wash it once you get home anyway.

2. Bread at a bakery. There’s a place in San Francisco that does something like this. As soon as the bakers remove the bread from the oven, it can be slipped into paper sheaths and carried directly out of the baking area and into the retail area, still warm, and within reach, perhaps in baskets on a conveyor belt.

3. Doughnuts. I’m thinking about how cool it would be if Krispy Kreme could move the last part of their assembly line, right after the original glazed go through the glaze, into the public area, with a sneeze guard. They should probably supply tongs and tissue paper.

4. Bar snacks at a bar. Bar snacks that live on dive bars are already suspect in the sanitary department, so why not make them more fun by having them move around? It would be like a rotating lazy susan, but for hungry drunks.