By Tom Super | American Meat Institute
Washington, D.C. September 1, 2011 – Summer may be waning, but with Labor Day cookouts, NCAA college football tailgates and the NFL season right around the corner, September’s 17th annual National Food Safety Education Month is the perfect time to remind food preparers about proper procedures when cooking meat and poultry products.
A new poll commissioned by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and conducted by Harris Interactive found that while almost nine out of 10 U.S. adults (88 percent) cook hamburgers or poultry (chicken or turkey) burgers, only 19 percent of those who do use an instant read thermometer to determine that the burgers are safely cooked and ready to eat (i.e., “doneness”). Approximately 73 percent of adults who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers incorrectly rely on sight to determine doneness and 57 percent incorrectly rely on cooking time.
Of concern: only 13 percent of adults aged 18-34 who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers, many of whom may prepare food for small children at home, use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness when cooking hamburgers or poultry burgers. Seventy-eight percent of this age group rely on sight, which is not an accurate indicator of doneness, to determine if the burger is cooked properly.
In terms of proper cooking temperatures, only one in five U.S. adults (20 percent) knows a hamburger should be cooked to 160 degree F to ensure it is safe to consume, while 41 percent mistakenly believe that hamburgers should be cooked to a temperature less than 160 degrees F, according to the poll.
Nearly half of U.S. adults (47 percent) believe that poultry burgers should be cooked to a temperature less than 165 degrees F. Only 13 percent know that a poultry burger should be cooked to 165 degree F to ensure it is safe to consume.
“Meat and poultry companies use many food safety strategies to make our products as safe as we can, and it is our responsibility to empower our customers with the information that they need to ensure that the products are safe when served,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Janet Riley. “Our poll reveals that a significant knowledge gap still exists about proper cooking temperatures and thermometer use. U.S. meat and poultry products are among the safest in the world, but like all raw agricultural products, they can contain bacteria, and that is why it is important to take time to remind consumers about safe handling and cooking practices.”
Riley urged consumers to follow the four basic food safety steps that are included on safe handling labels on meat and poultry products: clean, separate, cook and chill. Consumers should make sure that surfaces and hands are clean when preparing food, separate raw products from cooked products, cook the product to the proper temperature and keep the product properly chilled.
“While we recognize September as National Food Safety Education Month, food safety is a priority year-round,” Riley concluded. “By making a habit of cooking hamburgers to 160 degrees F and chicken or turkey burgers to 165 degrees F and using an instant read thermometer, consumers can feel confident that they will enjoy a safe and delicious eating experience every time.”
For more information and additional resources to safely prepare meat and poultry visit http://www.meatsafety.org/.