You can show consumers a food safety video, and give them food safety tools, but you can’t make them use food thermometers all of the time.

Study results just published by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service show consumer behavior related to the use of thermometers when cooking ground turkey patties. “An Observational Study of Thermometer Use by Consumers When Preparing Ground Turkey Patties” is in the July issue of the “Journal of Food Protection,” which is published by the International Association for Food Protection.

“As a food scientist, it’s important that we publish these results in peer-reviewed journals and that other scientists have access to the methodology and results,” said USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears. “This is in direct alignment with my goal to lead food safety using science, and we are ensuring that our safe food handling and cooking recommendations are grounded in science and are designed to help prevent foodborne illness.”

Data collected from six test kitchen facilities in two locations in North Carolina – one urban and one rural — compared two groups of people randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group was shown a video about food safety and the use of food thermometers during preparation. The other group did not see the video.

Although 62 percent overall said they owned a food thermometer, only 34 percent of those who did not see the video used thermometers while cooking in the test kitchens. A full 75 percent of those who saw the video used the provided thermometers. 

The video viewers were twice as likely to insert the food thermometer correctly in the turkey patty compared to the non-video group, at 52 percent and 23 percent, respectively, according to the research report.

Those who saw the safety video also scored better as far as testing both of two turkey patties to make sure they were both properly cooked. When those in the non-video group used a food thermometer, 46 percent did not cook the turkey patties to the safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

The study, conducted in 2018, has been under review by experts in the field to gain peer-reviewed designation.

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