Researchers at Kansas State University (KSU) have discovered that recipes with handwashing reminders and meat thermometer instructions do have positive impacts on consumer food safety.

For example, KSU scientists found that only 25 percent of people used a meat thermometer when cooking at home. However, when the recipe included specific thermometer reminders, that number jumped to 85 percent. The results were similar for handwashing. Fewer than half of people washed their hands when cooking, but 70 to 80 percent did so when the recipe reminded them to.

"This is such an easy thing to do. Just add the information to the recipe and people follow it," says Edgar Chambers, co-director of KSU’s Sensory Analysis Center and distinguished professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health. "It's a simple way to reduce foodborne illness and we can actually reduce health care costs by simply adding information to recipes. It's a great finding and a great piece of information for the promotion of food safety information."

KSU’s research is a 4-year collaborative project made possible with a $2.5 million grant, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The first 3 years involved analyzing consumer shopping and cooking habits specifically with regards to food safety with poultry and eggs, including using meat thermometers, washing hands frequently and storing meat in plastic bags provided by the grocery stores. The final year of the project will include a collaboration with the Partnership for Food Safety Education to create a nationwide food safety campaign. The overall goal is to educate consumers, manufacturers, grocers, journalists, magazines and publishers on the importance of including food safety instructions in published recipes.

Researchers are also studying how lighting can affect food safety. While many consumers are upgrading to energy-efficient LED lights, these fixtures often make meat and other food items appears to be done when they actually are not.

The study, Chambers and collaborative food scientists at Tennessee State University and RTI International in North Carolina, was published in the Journal of Food Protection. The research was also presented to the USDA for future improvement of the agency’s own recipes.

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