August 7, 2020

Food Thermometer Study Proves Education Improves Kitchen Food Safety

A food thermometer study conducted by the USDA’s FSIS and published in the Journal of Food Protection in July 2020 proves that education improves kitchen food safety techniques. The purpose of the study was to test effectiveness of intervention for consumer thermometer use.

Food Thermometer Study Proves Education Improves Kitchen Food Safety

Using a food thermometer is the only way to make sure that ground meats are safe to eat before serving. Ground beef, pork, and lamb should be cooked to 160°F and ground chicken and turkey should be cooked to 165°F.

USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Mindy Brashears, said in a statement, “As a food scientist, it’s important that we publish these results in peer-reviewed journals and that other scientists have access to the methodology and results. This is in direct alignment with my goal to lead food safety using science, and we are ensuring that our safe food handling and cooking recommendations are grounded in science and are designed to help prevent foodborne illness.”

First, in the food thermometer study, some consumers watched a food safety video called “The Importance of Cooking to a Safe Internal Temperature and How to Use a Food Thermometer.” Then, consumers were observed preparing turkey burgers and a salad to see if a food thermometer was used and was used correctly. The groups were then interviewed about food handling behaviors.

A total of 383 people participated in the study. There were 201 people in the control group and 182 in the treatment group. Sixty-two percent of participants in both groups were likely to own a food thermometer, but after watching the video the groups diverged dramatically in technique.

Participants who watched the video were twice as likely to use a thermometer to check the doneness of the turkey patties (75% versus 34%), and twice as likely to place the thermometer in the correct location (52% versus 23%).

Most participants who used a food thermometer did remember to check the internal temperature of both patties (82% of the video group and 73% of the non-video group). But even when those in the non-video group used a food thermometer, 46% did not cook the turkey patties to the safe final internal temperature of 165°F. And 67% of those who watched the video said it did influence their behavior in the kitchen.

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