According to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, consumers fail to properly wash their hands before meals 97 percent of the time. The observational study was conducted in conjunction with RTI International (an independent, nonprofit research firm), and North Carolina State University.

In terms of handwashing observations:

  • Most consumers failed to wash their hands for the necessary 20 seconds
  • Numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel

In terms of 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, nearly half still did not cook the burgers to the safe minimum internal temperature.

In terms of cross-contamination:

  • 48 percent of the time, consumers are contaminating spice containers used while preparing burgers
  • 11 percent of the time, consumers are spreading bacteria to refrigerator handles
  • 5 percent of the time, consumers are tainting salads due to cross-contamination

With grilling season upon us, USDA is reminding consumers to use a food thermometer and cook meat and poultry products to the recommended safe internal temperatures. When cooking meat and poultry patties, insert the thermometer through the side of the patty until the probe reaches the center of the patty.

Meat and poultry products are done when they reach these minimum internal temperatures:

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

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meat, poultry or eggs. Make sure you are washing for a full 20 seconds, and always dry your hands on a clean towel.

More information about this study is available in an executive summary.

Have questions? Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-HOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). Live food safety experts are available Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Expert advice is also available 24/7 at