RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Food Protection, found that only 34% of people used a thermometer to ensure their turkey burger was cooked to a safe temperature but that number increased to 75% when they were shown a short food safety video. The finding is part of a new study by researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and North Carolina State University.
The study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, is the first of a series focusing on food handling practices. The findings demonstrates that video messaging interventions are effective tools to help change a consumer’s behavior while cooking. The researchers concluded that delivering these messages to consumers at the right time could play an important role in adherence to food safety practices.
“Past studies have shown that many consumers do not use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry products, but rely on other indicators of doneness, such as color, that are not reliable indicators of doneness ,” said. Ellen Shumaker, PhD, Food Safety Scientist at RTI, “Our study shows that there are opportunities to positively influence food safety behaviors at home, such as thermometer use, by communicating the food safety risk and how to mitigate that risk”
The study, which was conducted in six test kitchen facilities across two locations in North Carolina, involved recording participants’ actions while preparing a meal beginning to end. After cooking, the participants were interviewed about their food handling behaviors.
Nearly 400 individuals participated and about half of the participants viewed a brief safety video before cooking, while the other half did not. 67% of the participants who watched the video prior to cooking reported the video influenced their actions in the kitchen and that they would start using a food thermometer at home.
“This collaborative study shows that participants who viewed the food safety video were twice as likely to use a thermometer to check the doneness of the turkey burgers.” Said Ben Chapman, PhD Professor and Food Safety Extension Specialist at NC State University. “In order to offer the most robust food safety communications, we’d recommend combining written, verbal and visual methods of delivering food safety messages and timing them in such a way to inform consumers at a decision-making point – such as when they are preparing a meal.”
The researchers who conducted the study provided recommendations around suggestions for future research to help bridge the gap between food safety messaging and actual behaviors when cooking at home. The researchers also suggested partnering with grocery stores to send mobile alerts to encourage thermometer use for consumers purchasing meat and poultry products in their stores.
For more information or to read the full study, please click here.