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FSIS

Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Talking Points

Background

  • The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov) is the public health regulatory agency in USDA responsible for verifying that meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled.
  • Food poisoning is a serious public health threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne illness results in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the United States annually. 
  • This summer, [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] has teamed up with USDA to help consumers learn how to protect themselves with the four steps to food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill. FSIS works hard to make sure the food you bring home is safe, but to better prevent foodborne illnesses, commonly known as food poisoning, practice these four steps.

Summer Food Safety

  • Foodborne illness rates increase during the summer for two reasons: 
    • Natural causes: Germs are present throughout the environment in soil, air, water and in our bodies. These microorganisms grow faster during the summer months because of the warmer and more humid weather.
    • Outside activities increase during the summer: Although summer may look different this year, people still like to go outside to enjoy warmer weather. They may be cooking or eating outside, away from items in the kitchen that help us stay safe and clean, like sinks. Given these circumstances, harmful germs have many opportunities to quickly multiply on food and make people sick.
  • Perishable food should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. In hot, summer weather (above 90°F), perishable food should not sit out for more than one hour. Bacteria can multiply rapidly if food is left out too long, doubling in number in as few as 20 minutes.
  • Handwashing: Inadequate handwashing has been identified as a contributing factor to all sorts of illness, including foodborne illness, especially when preparing raw meat and poultry. Hands can become vectors that move potential germs linked to raw meat and poultry around the kitchen, which can contribute to foodborne illnesses.
  • Proper hand washing can greatly reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Hand washing should always include five simple steps:
    1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
    2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
    3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
    4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
    5. Dry your hands using a clean towel.
  • Drying hands using a clean dish towel or single-use paper towel is also an important handwashing step. Drying your hands properly can help physically remove any germs that may still be left on your hands after washing. Recent research found that some individuals did not dry their hands at all, while others did dry their hands, but dried them on surfaces other than clean towels.
  • Clean: If you are grilling and eating outdoors, find out if there is a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
  • Separate and Chill: Ensuring your cooler is fully stocked with ice or frozen gel packs can help to keep perishable foods cold. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another cooler.
    • The beverage cooler may be opened frequently, causing the temperature inside of the cooler to fluctuate and become unsafe for perishable foods.
    • When taking perishable foods in the car, keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car. Once outside, place it in the shade or out of the sun whenever possible.
  • Cook: You can’t see, smell or feel germs that could make you sick on meat and poultry, so you should always use a food thermometer to make sure you have destroyed any illness causing germs.
    • Cook meat or poultry to these minimum internal temperatures to ensure you have destroyed harmful germs:
      • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145°F (with a 3-minute rest time)
      • Ground meats (including burgers and hot dogs): 160°F
      • Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165°F
    • Meat and poultry cooked on a grill tend to brown quickly on the outside but may not be fully cooked on the inside. Use a food thermometer to ensure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
  • Keep Hot Foods Hot: After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot at 140°F or warmer until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. Inside, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, or in a chafing dish, slow cooker or warming tray.
  • Chill: Leftovers should be chilled within two hours of cooking. However, when the temperature outside is 90°F or warmer, leftovers shouldn’t stay out for more than one hour before chilling. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • For more information and tips on preventing illness, including foodborne illness this summer, consumers can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
  • You can also visit FoodSafety.gov to learn more about how to safely handle and prepare food. For more summer food safety tips, follow FSIS on Twitter @USDAFoodSafety or on Facebook at Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov.
  • For food safety resources in Spanish, visit espanol.foodsafety.gov or get answers to frequently asked questions at www.pregunteleaKaren.gov. Follow FSIS on Twitter @USDAFoodSafe_es.

Observational Study Results

  • Recent USDA research conducted in test kitchens revealed some startling insights about how foodborne germs may be spread around the kitchen when individuals are preparing meat and poultry products.
  • In the first year of the study, USDA observed the kitchen behaviors of consumers preparing turkey burgers and a side salad in a test kitchen. In the second year of the study, USDA observed the kitchen behaviors of consumers who self-reported washing poultry while they prepared chicken thighs and a side salad. Researchers observed their food handling behaviors before, during and after meal preparation.
    • About 400 participants are observed each year to see how well they follow recommended food handling practices and the four steps to food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Handwashing

  • During both years of the observational study, participants were not washing their hands sufficiently up to 99 percent of the time before and during meal preparation. The most common reason for unsuccessful handwashing was not scrubbing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • During these observations, researchers identified thousands of opportunities in which participants should have washed their hands to prevent the transfer of foodborne germs around the kitchen. Across both studies, participants did not even attempt to wash their hands between 70 and 75 percent of the time when it was required.
  • When they did attempt handwashing, many participants did not scrub their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Other errors included not wetting their hands with water before applying soap and not drying their hands with a clean or one-use towel, which are crucial steps.
  • Inadequate handwashing has been identified as a contributing factor to foodborne illness, especially when preparing raw meat and poultry. Hands can move potential germs found in raw meat and poultry around the area you are preparing food, which can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Food Thermometer Usage

  • In the first study, participants used a food thermometer to check the doneness of turkey burgers only 34 percent of the time.
    • Even when participants did use a food thermometer, only 54 percent of turkey burgers reached the safe internal cooking temperature of 165°F.
  • When a food thermometer was used during the turkey burger study, 77 percent of participants did not place the thermometer in the correct location of the burger. In burgers, the food thermometer should be inserted through the side of the patty, until the probe reaches the center to detect any cold spots.
  • In the second study, 44 percent of participants used a food thermometer to check the doneness of at least one chicken thigh. In chicken thighs, the food thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, avoiding the bone.
    • 20 percent of participants only used visual cues to determine if food “looked done.”
    • 11 percent only used cooking time to determine if food was done cooking.
    • 9 percent only used touch to see if food was hot enough to be done.

Cross-Contamination

  • The turkey burger study showed that unsafe food handling behaviors led to germs from raw poultry being spread to other locations in the kitchen. Most notably, participants transferred germs to:
    • 48 percent of the spice containers they used during meal preparation.
    • 11 percent of the refrigerator door handles.
    • 11 percent of water faucet handles.
    • 5 percent of the chef salads prepared.
  • In the poultry washing study, 76 percent of participants did not attempt to clean the sink immediately after washing or rinsing poultry. Among those who did attempt to clean the sink, 96 percent were not successful at both cleaning and sanitizing the sink after washing or rinsing poultry.
    • Participants who washed or rinsed poultry contaminated the inner sink 60 percent of the time and contaminated a side salad they also prepared with their meal 26 percent of the time.
  • This should be a wakeup call for home cooks because:
    • If this had been a meal being prepared at a participant’s home, many would be feeding their family a salad that could cause foodborne illness.
    • You can’t see, smell or feel foodborne illness causing germs on meat and poultry, or on any sides that have been cross-contaminated.
  • To help control cross-contamination, handle fruits, vegetables and other ready-to-eat foods before handling raw meat, poultry or eggs. Use a separate cutting board to prepare raw meat or poultry and always wash your hands thoroughly after you handle raw meat, poultry or eggs.

Survey Results

  • According to another recent USDA survey, nearly 85 percent of participants said they don’t nest cold foods in ice when preparing a buffet-style meal. Cold foods should be kept cold (below 40°F) to stay safe.
    • You can also keep cold foods in a cooler or the refrigerator until you are ready to eat, or only put out small portions, keeping the rest in the fridge and replenishing the portions as needed.
  • In the same survey, 66 percent of participants indicated they did not keep their hot foods warm after cooking. Hot foods should be kept warm (above 140°F) until they’re eaten.
    • Store hot foods in a slow cooker or chafing dish, in a warm oven or warming tray, or even on a grill away from direct heat to keep them warm for a buffet.
  • This is especially important during the summer because when the temperature outside is above 90°F, perishable food and leftovers are only safe outside for one hour instead of two. By keeping your food out of the danger zone, with hot foods hot and cold foods cold, your food will stay safe during your outdoor meals.

 

Last Modified May 20, 2020