Food Handling Behaviors Observed in Consumers When Cooking Poultry and Eggs
Previous research has shown that many consumers do not follow recommended food safety practices for cooking poultry and eggs, which can lead to exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter. Past research has been done primarily through surveys and interviews, rather than observations. The objective of this project was to determine through observations whether consumers follow food safety guidelines. Consumers (n = 101) divided among three locations (Manhattan, KS; Kansas City, MO area; and Nashville, TN) were observed as they prepared a baked whole chicken breast, a pan-fried ground turkey patty, a fried egg, and scrambled eggs. The end point temperature for the cooked products was taken (outside the view of consumers) within 30 s after the consumers indicated they were finished cooking. Thermometer use while cooking was low, although marginally higher than that of some previous studies: only 37% of consumers used a thermometer for chicken breasts and only 22% for turkey patties. No one used a thermometer for fried or scrambled eggs. Only 77% of the chicken and 69% of the turkey was cooked to a safe temperature (165°F [74°C]), and 77% of scrambled and 49% of fried eggs reached a safe temperature (160°F [71°C]). Safe hand washing was noted in only 40% of respondents after handling the chicken breast and 44% after handling the ground turkey patty. This value decreased to 15% after handling raw eggs for fried eggs and to 17% for scrambled eggs. These results show that there is a high prevalence of unsafe behaviors (undercooking and poor hand washing technique) when cooking poultry and eggs and a great need for improvement in consumer behavior with poultry and eggs.