Irish people generally have good knowledge of the main aspects to prevent Salmonella infection, according to recently published study results.

Researchers evaluated consumers’ food safety knowledge by looking at their practices and attitudes regarding raw meat handling, cross-contamination while handling different types of food products, and knowledge of Salmonella risk and associated food-handling practices. 

An online survey in the Republic of Ireland from July to November 2020 received 1,916 responses with 1,557 included in the study published in the Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety.

Results indicated that 80 percent of the studied Irish population had a good knowledge of salmonellosis and risk perception related to food handling practices. Understanding of cross-contamination, hygienic practices, and pathogens associated with poultry was also high. However, knowledge of meat handling was low at 45 percent.

Age, gender, marital status, annual income, and nationality were influential factors regarding the food safety knowledge of consumers, while age, marital status, and gender indicated significant differences in awareness of correct food hygiene practices.

Meat handling findings
A high percentage of respondents did not wash meat before cooking; food safety experts recommend not washing meat or poultry because of cross-contamination issues. Half purchased meat at the end of their shopping trip before going home.

Almost 4 percent did not know the recommended core temperature of 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) for correctly cooked chicken and a third believed that pathogens can possibly grow at refrigeration temperatures of 0 to 5 degrees C (32 to 41 degrees F).

The study found that 44 percent of Irish consumers cooked poultry until a core temperature of 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) was reached, as recommended by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

FSAI is currently running a survey on the microbiological quality of chilled and frozen coated poultry meat preparations and products intended to be eaten cooked for Salmonella.

About a quarter of the participants used a thermometer to check the correct temperature of the chicken while cooking. More than one-third of households used timings based on experience. One-third used surface colors or colors of the interior or base their judgments on whether the chicken is properly cooked, which are not effective measures.

The level of awareness of pathogenic risk factors was low since less than half of the participants raised such issues associated with meat handling.

“The studied population also had poor knowledge of food pathogen survival in refrigeration conditions. Further efforts need to be made to educate the Irish population on the importance of using thermometers to ensure food safety and not just depend on arbitrary methods,” said scientists.

Salmonella knowledge and infection abroad
Seventy percent of respondents owned a set of chopping boards and knives specifically used for the segregated preparation of ready-to-eat foods and raw meats. 

Most people knew that raw chicken should be stored at the bottom of the refrigerator in an airtight container. However, only 45 percent recognized that RTE foods should be on the top shelf of the refrigerator with a protective cover. 

The majority of people indicated a good knowledge of Salmonella. More than half recognized salmonellosis is not solely associated with poultry. However, less than 5 percent knew symptoms could take 4 to 5 days to appear.

About 40 percent of participants said they had experienced possible foodborne illness while abroad. Almost 70 percent prefer to eat out when abroad. Such behavior increases the risk and exposure to illnesses such as salmonellosis, said, researchers.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)