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Study Finds More U.S. Consumers Need Food Safety EducationSalem-News.com Staff
Cross-contamination and insufficient cooking are the most common risks found while observing the handling and preparation of raw poultry. Study Finds More U.S. Consumers Need Food Safety Education
(SALEM, Ore. ) - Just in time for the peak of grilling season, results of a new study show that most consumers need to improve food handling and preparation practices in their own kitchen to help minimize the chances of foodborne illness.
The study, conducted by University of California, Davis, emphasizes the need for increased food safety education for consumers and contains some surprising results based on observation of meals prepared at home.
Cross-contamination and insufficient cooking are the most common risks found while observing the handling and preparation of raw poultry. Among those participating in the west coast study were households in Portland as well as Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
“The most surprising aspect of these findings to me was the prevalence of undercooking,” says Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer research at UC Davis, who authored the study. “We are now in summer, the peak season for foodborne illness, and these results come at a time when more consumers can benefit from being aware of better food safety practices. Even tips usually considered basic, like washing hands with soap and water before and after handling raw poultry, and never rinsing raw poultry in the sink, still need to be emphasized for a safer experience,” adds Bruhn, a specialist in UC Cooperative Extension who studies consumer attitudes and behaviors toward food safety.
The study and its findings have prompted Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba to lend her voice to the consumer education effort. Coba has recorded a public service announcement for the summer that focuses on proper handling and preparation of poultry.
“As we all know, food safety is everyone’s responsibility,” says Coba. “In particular, when it comes to poultry, that shared responsibility runs from the farm to the kitchen– growers, processors, retailers, and consumers all play a huge role in ensuring that chicken is safe to eat.”
As part of the study, 120 consumers, 30 of them residents of Portland, were asked to prepare a fresh chicken dish and salad of their choosing. A video camera was set up in the home to record the meal preparation. After the chicken was prepared, the participants were interviewed regarding their handling practices and food safety knowledge.
One of the key conclusions from the interviews is that consumers are very aware of food safety issues, including Salmonella, and the risk of foodborne illness. However, many do not follow recommended food safety practices in preparing their own meals at home.
“While it is important for the producer, processor, and retailer to keep poultry and other raw food products safe, the results of this study indicate we really need to emphasize good handling practices at home because it can be a source of foodborne pathogens,” says Coba.
The UC Davis study shows the awareness of foodborne illness is high: •95 percent had heard of people becoming ill from eating chicken
•94 percent had heard of Salmonella
•48 percent believed their family had experienced foodborne illness
However, most study participants don’t view the home kitchen as a potential source of foodborne illness:
•21 percent believed their family could become ill from chicken prepared in their home
•86 percent believe the source of their family’s foodborne illness, if they had one, was restaurants
With the aid of the video camera, it was easy to observe the most common food safety mistakes made by participants preparing chicken meals and salad in their home kitchen:
•40 percent undercook chicken
•45 percent washed their chicken
•Hands are not washed thoroughly
•Food is not stored properly
•There are multiple opportunities for cross-contamination
In the area of handwashing, 64 percent didn’t wash up before starting meal preparation, 90 percent washed for less than 20 seconds with a third of them not even using soap, and 38 percent didn’t wash their hands after handling raw chicken. An old bad habit that seems to be pervasive– 47 percent of the participants washed raw chicken, allowing any pathogens to splash and spread in and beyond the sink.
Insufficient cooking was also observed with 40 percent of the participants undercooking their chicken, regardless of preparation method. Only 20 percent knew the correct USDA recommended cooking temperature for chicken of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Only 48 percent of participants even owned a cooking thermometer let alone used it– instead, using the appearance of the chicken to determine if it was “fully cooked.”
Proper food storage is also a concern with 75 percent of the participants not knowing the recommended refrigerator temperature for storing raw chicken (40 degrees Fahrenheit).
Based on the study’s findings, a coalition of agriculture and food safety partners, including the state departments of agriculture in Oregon, Washington, and California, UC Davis, the California Poultry Federation, the Northwest Chicken Council, Partnership for Food Safety Education, and Foster Farms, are launching an educational campaign to increase consumer knowledge about safe food preparation practices in the home.
“Summer is a time people barbecue and, often, the product they are cooking is chicken,” says ODA Director Coba. “It’s a great time to emphasize these key issues of proper preparation, handling, and storage so that everyone can enjoy safe and delicious food this time of year.”
Source: Oregon Department of Agriculture
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