A significant knowledge gap exists among the public about meat and poultry handling, cooking and safety, according to a new poll.
Only a third (34 percent) of Americans correctly answered that a hamburger is ready to eat when the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees F. One in five said that checking the middle of the hamburger to ensure that it is brown is the best approach – a practice experts say is not an accurate indicator that a burger is thoroughly cooked. Likewise, 18 percent wrongly said that checking to see if juices run clear ensures food safety.
The poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans in May, found that many misconceptions remain, particularly when it comes to preparing and storing raw meat and poultry products.
AMI’s survey found that men are much more likely than women to know how to identify when a hamburger is thoroughly cooked. While four in ten (41 percent) men know that the internal temperature of a hamburger must reach 160 degrees F before it can be consumed, only 26 percent of women knew this fact.
Overall, younger Americans are less knowledgeable about proper meat preparation than older generations, the survey found. Only 16 percent of 18-29 year olds know to check the internal temperature of a burger.
Consumers also were uncertain about proper storage temperatures. Only 36 percent of women are aware that refrigerators should be set at 40 degree F or below. An additional one-third (33 percent) of women simply admit that they don’t know the correct temperature for a refrigerator.
Among members of Generation Y, only one-third (32 percent) of Americans age 18-29 know that refrigerators should be set to 40 degrees F or below, compared to half (52 percent) of those age 30 and older.
The majority of respondents (62 percent) were also not aware that the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems need to reheat deli meat and hot dogs to steaming before eating them.
The American public is divided over whether they believe meat and poultry products have more or fewer bacteria on them today than they did 10 years ago, according to survey results. While 22 percent of Americans think that there is more bacteria on meat/poultry today than in the past, 26 percent believe the opposite is true and that today’s meat/poultry has fewer bacteria. Two in 10 (22 percent) don’t think bacteria levels have changed, and three in 10 (29 percent) report that they just don’t know the answer.
In reality, government data show a record of sustained food safety improvements. The incidence of pathogenic bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella are decreasing at high rates. USDA sampling of ground beef shows that E. coli O157:H7 has decreased 45 percent since 2000 to just 0.47 percent positive. Salmonella on mar¬ket hogs has de-creased 67 percent since 1998 to just 2.8 percent. These strate¬gies have also helped reduce the incidence of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products by 74 percent since 2000 to the very low level of 0.37 percent. All of these bacteria can be destroyed by proper cooking and reheating.
“The good news is that meat and poultry products are safer than they have ever been, and this indus¬try is committed to working harder to make our products even safer,” AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said. “Still, we all have a role to play – from farm to table – in ensuring the food is safe when served.
Boyle noted that AMI will continue to use the radio airwaves, Web sites like meatsafety.org and YouTube and other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, to empower consumers with the information they need to prepare meat and poultry safely. AMI has been working to provide consumer friendly information in a variety of formats.
He also urged consumers follow the four basic food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill. He urged consumers to pay close attention to the safe handling labels that are included on meat and poultry products.