Safety Zone
By: James Marsden
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Consumers slacking off on food safety

Source of Article:  www.meatingplace.com

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

A recent survey showed fewer consumers are adhering to basic safe food handling practices than a year ago. What does this mean for food processors?

 

The International Food Information Council Foundation recently published its 2009 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition & Health. http://tinyurl.com/pbad2f

 

Although 52% of the consumers surveyed correctly identified foodborne illness from bacteria as the most important food safety issue, fewer are taking food safety precautions to reduce their risks. For example only 50% of consumers use different or freshly cleaned cutting boards for different types of food products (such as raw meat/poultry/produce). Only 63% separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from ready-to-eat products and only 25% claim that they use a food thermometer to check the doneness of meat and poultry items.

 

Other important statistics in the survey relate to microwave cooking practices. Generally, the survey showed that fewer consumers are following safe microwave cooking practices, including following cooking instructions and allowing microwaved foods to stand for an appropriate time after cooking.

 

In other words, consumer food safety practices are generally getting worse. This means a number of things for food processors.

 

First, it appears unlikely that consumer behaviors relating to food safety are going to improve any time soon. Clearly, there needs to be a renewed emphasis on consumer education. In my view, food safety tips on television cooking programs and YouTube may be more effective than USDA pamphlets and traditional education initiatives.

 

It also means that food processors must realistically consider consumer practices when designing food products and cooking instructions. The largest possible safety nets need to be designed into processed foods and labels to take into account the likelihood of consumer preparation error.

 

With respect to raw foods, including raw meat and poultry products, it is particularly alarming that only 50% of consumers use different or freshly cleaned cutting boards for different types of food products and only 63% separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from ready-to-eat products. These types of poor consumer practices make it essential that raw products have the lowest possible incidence of pathogens. Proper cooking alone is not enough to address the problem of E. coli O157:H7 in raw beef products and Salmonella in raw poultry.

 

One of the highlights of the survey addressed consumer confidence in the US food supply. Interestingly, only 49% of the respondents were extremely or somewhat confident that our food supply is safe. That is not an encouraging number given the fact that the food supply in the US is certainly one of the safest in the world.

 

6/5/2009 11:09 AM 

 

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