May 29, 2024

USDA Study Shows Most People Don’t Wash Hands When Preparing Food

A new study from the USDA shows that most people don’t wash hands while preparing food. In fact, about 97% of people in a study commissioned by that agency do not properly wash their hands while in the kitchen. Failure to wash hands while preparing food can lead to cross-contamination and cause food poisoning.

Wash Hands

Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the USDA said in a statement, “As a mother of three young children, I am very familiar with the mad dash families go through to put dinner on the table. You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria. By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen.”

The observational study was conducted by the USDA with RTI International and North Carolina State University. It showed that most consumers did not wash their hands for the necessary 20 seconds, and many of those people did not dry their hands with a clean towel. Those are two critical steps in hand washing.

For proper handwashing, you should wet your hands under clean running water, add soap, and lather for 20 seconds. Rinse your hands, then dry using a clean cloth or paper towel.

About 63% of consumers own a food thermometer. But the study found that only 34% of participants used a food thermometer to make sure that burgers were cooked to a safe final internal temperature. And of those who did use a thermometer, almost half didn’t cook burgers to at least 160°F, the temperature necessary to kill pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7.

The study also highlighted the problem of cross-contamination. Almost half of the time, consumers contaminated spice containers that were used by preparing burgers by touching them without  hand washing after handling the raw beef. Eleven percent spread the bacteria to refrigerator handles, and 5% tainted salads. There were 1,054 cases when a hand washing event was needed during the study, but participants attempted to wash their hands only about 33% of the time. Only about 1 to 2% of study participants completed all the steps necessary to be considered an adequate hand washing event.

When cooking meat and poultry products, cook all beef, lamb, and veal steaks, roasts, and chops to 145°F. Ground beef and pork should be cooked to 160°F. All poultry products must be cooked to 165°F, whether you’re cooking whole chickens, chicken parts, or ground chicken or turkey.

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