roast ham

Additional Recipe "Ingredient" Makes Food Safer

Kitchen food safety can be improved by a few simple measures–reminders in recipes to wash hands and follow meat thermometer instructions.

Edgar Chambers IV, co-director of Kansas State University’s Sensory Analysis Center, and collaborative food scientists have found that only 25 percent of people use a meat thermometer when they are cooking at home. But when a recipe includes a reminder, 85 percent of people will use a thermometer. The researchers saw similar results for hand-washing: Only 40 to 50 percent of people wash their hands when cooking, but 70 to 80 percent of people will wash their hands when a recipe reminds them.

“This is such an easy thing to do: Just add the information to the recipe and people follow it,” said Edgar Chambers, who is also a university distinguished professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health. “It’s a simple way to reduce foodborne illness and we can actually reduce health care costs by simply adding information to recipes. It’s a great finding and a great piece of information for the promotion of food safety information.”

Chambers and his research team – including researchers at Tennessee State University and RTI International in North Carolina — have published the research in the Journal of Food Protection. They presented the results to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which intends to start including these food safety instructions in recipes that it develops, Chambers said.

The four-year collaborative project is supported by a $2.5 million USDA grant. The researchers have spent three years studying consumer shopping and cooking behaviors. Now the researchers are spending the fourth and final year working with the Partnership for Food Safety Education in Washington, D.C., to develop a nationwide food safety campaign. The researchers want to educate consumers, manufacturers, grocers, journalists, magazines and publishers on the importance of including food safety instructions in published recipes.

“We want to provide research-based information for consumers,” Chambers said. “The goal is to promote safe behaviors so that people actually begin to do them every day in the kitchen and as part of their shopping behavior.”

The project focused on several areas of food safety with poultry and eggs, including using meat thermometers, washing hands frequently and storing meat in plastic bags provided by the grocery stores.

The researchers observed 75 people cook two dishes — a Parmesan chicken breast and a turkey patty with mushroom sauce — following recipes that did not have food safety instructions. Another group of 75 participants cooked the same dishes following recipes that did include food safety instructions. The dishes required the participants to handle raw meat, eggs and fresh produce while scientists observed how often the participants washed their hands or used a meat thermometer.