Behavior researchers long ago recognized there is often a big difference between what people say they will do, and what they actually do. The best way to find the truth is to adopt observational research methods, watching for what actually happens.

cookingtherometer_406x250The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced a three-year plan to conduct behavioral research about food safety, FSIS announced Tuesday with a notice in the Federal Register.

The “In-Home Food Safety Behaviors and Consumer Education” study is part of the FSIS Strategic Plan for 2017-2021. The study will use observational methods, not self-reported answers, to collect data.

The plan for the three-year study calls for a third-party research firm to conduct research at North Carolina State University’s test kitchens. It will require the research firm to conduct sampling consistent with U.S. population demographics.

Each year of the study will focus on different behavior, food and food preparation tasks, and food safety communication strategies. During the first year the study will focus on participants’ use of food thermometers in meat and poultry products and cooking to the proper temperatures.

FSIS found through earlier research that self-reported data for consumer food safety practices is not reliable. The agency’s scientists are hopeful more reliable data will come from actual observations of behavior. The agency wants observations on recommended food safety behavior for cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling.

FSIS hopes to determine how food safety messaging about those behaviors impacts food safety handling behaviors.

Comments on the FSIS Research Plan will be accepted until the close of business on Feb. 21, 2017. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the agency name and docket number FSIS-2016-0036.

To file comments electronically, visit regulations/gov and search for docket number FSIS-2016-0036.

To file comments via mail, including CD-ROMs, address materials to:
Docket Clerk for USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW
Mailstop 3782, Room 8-163A
Washington D.C. 20250-3700.

Hand- or courier-delivered comments should be taken to:
Patriots Plaza 3, 355 E Street SW
Room 8-163A
Washington D.C. 20250-3700.

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