Epic Fail:  97% to be Exact By Johanna Hicks

Epic Fail:  97% to be Exact

               Many news pieces come across my desk daily, but one really caught my attention. Since a large part of my job is food safety and health, I thought this information was worth sharing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that new research shows consumer are failing to properly clean their hands when it comes to washing them before meals – 97%!  The study showed that rushed and improper handwashing promotes the chance of cross-contamination through food, kitchen utensils, and surfaces, such as refrigerator handles, kitchen drawer handles and countertops.  Carmen Rottenberg, with the USDA, is the mother of three young children and used her personal perspective to describe the importance of the research report.  She, like many other parents, is “very familiar with the mad dash families go through to put dinner on the table.”

Observational research showed some concerning results in the following categories:

Handwashing: Consumers incorrectly washed their hands 97 percent of the time.  Most consumer failed to wash their hand for the necessary 20 seconds (something that we recently taught at “Kids’ Camp: Fun, Food, Fitness”), and numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel (used their pants or shirt, instead).

Thermometer Use:  Only 34 percent of participants used a food thermometer to check that their burgers were cooked properly.  Of those who did use the food thermometer, about half still did not cook the burgers to the safe minimum internal temperature to kill pathogens.

Cross Contamination:  Participants were observed spreading bacteria from raw poultry onto surfaces and other food in the test kitchen.  Forty-eight percent of the time, they contaminated spice containers used while preparing burgers, 11 percent of the time they spread bacteria to refrigerator handles, and 5 percent of the time they were tainting salads due to cross-contamination.

               According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.  The CDC warns that children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

               With the arrival of summer and the popularity of outdoor grilling, the USDA is reminding consumers to use a food thermometer and cook meat and poultry products to their recommended safe internal temperatures.  Meat and poultry products are considered ‘done’ when they reach the following minimum internal temperatures:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal  (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 degrees F
  • Ground meats (including burgers and sausages): 160 degrees F
  • Poultry (whole or ground): 165 degrees F

When checking for internal temperatures, use the food thermometer correctly.  While cooking meat and poultry patties, insert the thermometer through the side of the patty until the probe reaches the center of the patty.

               Remember also, to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for a full 20 seconds after handling raw meat, poultry, or  eggs.  Use only on clean towels afterwards – not your pants or shirt!

Community Health Talks

               If you missed the July 6 Community Health Talks at the Extension Office, you are still invited to attend the July 13th event, 6:30 p.m.  Topics had to be adjusted to accommodate last minute speaker conflicts, so the topics for July 13 will be Brad Fain, with Zoetis Animal Health, who will discuss food security.  Danielle Altenbaumer, with the Department of State Health Services, will speak on immunizations – who needs what, and when they need them.  Information from the July 6 topics will be available for anyone wishing to learn about diseases affecting pets and humans (such as rabies), and Texas Cottage Food Laws, food safety, and safe food handling.

               Call us at 903-885-3443 if you have questions. Refreshments will be provided.

Closing Thought

The heaviest work load you can carry is a bundle of bad habits – unknown

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone
903-439-4909 – Fax
[email protected]

Author: Savannah Everett

Share This Post On