Consumer survey: food safety knowledge lagging
June 16, 2009
by Bryan Salvage
WASHINGTON – Maintaining and enhancing food safety requires a commitment from the entire food chain—including consumers. But according to a new poll, a significant knowledge gap still exists among consumers about meat and poultry handling, cooking and safety, according to the American Meat Institute.
Just one-third (34%) of Americans correctly answered that a hamburger is ready to eat when the internal temperature has reached 160°F. One in five said checking the middle of the hamburger to ensure it is brown is the best approach – which isn’t an accurate indicator a burger is thoroughly cooked. And 18% wrongly said checking to see if juices run clear ensures food safety.
Surveying 1,000 Americans in May, the poll found many consumer misconceptions remain, particularly when it comes to preparing and storing raw meat and poultry products. Men are more likely than women to know how to identify when a hamburger is thoroughly cooked. While four in 10 (41%) men know that the internal temperature of a hamburger must reach 160°F before it can be consumed, only 26% of women knew this fact.
Only 16%of 18-29 year olds know to check the internal temperature of a burger.
Thirty-six percent of women are aware that refrigerators should be set at 40°F or below. An additional one-third (33%) of women simply admit that they don't know the correct temperature for a refrigerator.Only one-third (32%) of Generation Y Americans aged 18-29 know refrigerators should be set to 40°F or below, compared to half (52°) of those age 30 and older.
Most respondents (62%) were not aware the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems need to reheat deli meat and hot dogs to steaming before eating them.
Americans are divided over whether they believe meat and poultry products have more or fewer bacteria on them today than they did 10 years ago, the survey reveals. Although 22% of Americans think there is more bacteria on meat/poultry today than in the past, 26% believe the opposite is true and that today's meat/poultry has fewer bacteria. Two in 10 (22%) don't think bacteria levels have changed, and three in 10 (29%) said they don't know the answer.
Government data show a record of sustained food-safety improvements. The incidence of pathogenic bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella are decreasing at high rates. U.S.D.A. sampling of ground beef shows that E. coli O157:H7 has decreased 45% since 2000 to just 0.47%positive. Salmonella on market hogs has decreased 67% since 1998 to just 2.8%. These strategies have also helped reduce the incidence of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products by 74% since 2000 to the very low level of 0.37%. All of these bacteria can be destroyed by proper cooking and reheating.
A.M.I. will continue to use the radio airwaves, Web sites like www.meatsafety.org and YouTube and other social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, to empower consumers with the information they need to safely prepare meat and poultry.