Don’t fumble on food safety this Sunday
Your upcoming Super Bowl party (or any other gathering) can be a game-changer, literally, if you drop the ball on food safety. If new research is any indication, you would be wise to learn best food-handling practices before you begin prepping your feast.
Researchers at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., were interested in determining what current food safety messages resulted in best food-handling practices. Based on their study, regardless of whether participants were exposed to varying degrees of messaging or no messaging at all, everyone made mistakes that could lead to potential foodborne illness.
The study, published in the January issue of the journal Food Protection Trends, examined 123 home chefs who agreed to be videotaped preparing a meal including raw meat and a ready-made fruit salad. Contamination was traced through a nonpathogenic agent injected into the meat. From this group, researchers found that 90 percent of the home chefs had contaminated their salad with some level of salmonella.
Study participants were divided into three groups:
- One group was educated on the four national Food Safety Families campaign messages, which includes clean, separate, cook and chill.
- One group watched and discussed the Ad Council public service announcements focusing on the same four messages.
- One group received no food safety training before meal prep.
After each participant prepared a meal, researchers wiped down the kitchen. Most home chefs in the group had tracked contaminants all around the kitchen including on faucets, countertops, handles and trash cans. The most common place for contamination, however, was on hand towels.
“We found that most people tried to wash their hands, but did it very ineffectively—either only using water or not washing for long enough,” said study co-author Randy Phebus in a statement.
“By not washing their hands correctly, they spread contamination to the hand towels. They then go back to use those towels multiple times and recontaminate themselves or the kitchen surfaces with those towels. It ultimately leads to contamination in the food product,” added Phebus, a Kansas State University professor of food safety.
Health experts say that proper handwashing is not as simple as it sounds.
In order to effectively kill germs, Donna Currie, director of clinical outcomes at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill recommends using soap and water. She said that the washer should use a constant stream of water and a moderate lather of soap for approximately 20 seconds, cleaning between the fingers and around the nails as well.
Informing consumers of proper food handling techniques is helpful, but can only go so far. A change in habits in behaviors, which can be daunting, is really what needs to happen. “Human behavior can be modified, but it’s a very complicated effort to do that,” Phebus said.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.