Food Safety

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RESEARCH
Current Research

A Camera’s View of Consumer Food-Handling
Behaviors
JANET B. ANDERSON, MS, RD; THOMAS A. SHUSTER, PhD; KELEE E. HANSEN, MBA, RD; ALAN S. LEVY, PhD; ANTHONY VOLK ABSTRACT
Objective

To compare consumer food-handling behaviors with the Fight BAC! consumer food-safety recommendations.

Design

Subjects were videotaped in their home while preparing a meal. Videotapes were coded according to Fight BAC! recommendations. A food-safety survey was administered and temperature data was collected.

Subjects/Setting

A market research company randomly recruited subjects by telephone. Ninety-nine consumers participated (92 women, seven men).

Statistical Analysis
Performed

Descriptive statistics were used.

Results

Overall, subjects did not follow the Fight BAC! recommendations for safe food handling. Handwashing was inadequate. The average hand wash length was significantly lower than the 20-second recommendation. Only one-third of subjects’ hand wash attempts were with soap. Surface cleaning was inadequate with only one-third of surfaces thoroughly cleaned. Moreover, one-third of subjects did not attempt to clean surfaces during food preparation. Nearly all subjects cross-contaminated raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and/or unwashed vegetables with ready-to-eat foods multiple times during food preparation. Unwashed hands were the most common cross-contamination agent. Many subjects undercooked the meat and poultry entrees. Very few subjects used a food thermometer.

Applications/Conclusions

Consumers make many food-handling errors during food preparation, increasing their risk of foodborne illness. Dietetics professionals need to familiarize themselves with the Fight BAC! consumer food-safety recommendations; understand where consumers are making food-handling errors; increase food safety awareness; and educate consumers, especially those in high-risk populations, about safe food handling at home. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104:186-191.

F
J. B. Anderson is a clinical associate professor with
Utah State University, Logan. T. A. Shuster is managing partner with Spectrum Consulting, North Logan, UT. K. E. Hansen is assistant director of the Safe Food
Institute, North Logan, UT. A. S. Levy is chief of the
Consumer Studies Branch, Center for Food Safety and
Applied Nutrition, US Food and Drug Administration,
College Park, MD. A. Volk is president of Volk Enterprises, Norcross, GA. Address correspondence to: Kelee E. Hansen, MBA,
RD, 1770 N Research Pkwy, North Logan, UT 84341.
E-mail: hansen@safefoodinstitute.org
Copyright © 2004 by the American Dietetic
Association.
0002-8223/04/10402-0005$30.00/0
doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2003.11.010

186

Journal of THE AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION

oodborne diseases are estimated to cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year (1).
Research indicates that 25% of reported outbreaks are
due to inappropriate consumer food-handling and preparation practices in the home (2). Mead et al (1) reported that surveillance of foodborne illness is complicated by
several factors such as underreporting of incidence, mildness of some cases, and lack of complete knowledge about the pathology of foodborne illness.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Fight
BAC! campaign, created and endorsed by the US Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Human Services, and 10 food industry organizations in 1997, was
developed to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness in
the home by educating Americans about safe food-handling practices (3). The Fight BAC! campaign recommends consumers follow four steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill to keep food safe from harmful bacteria (3).

© 2004 by the American Dietetic Association

Fight BAC! recommendations, specific to each step, are
available to educators, media groups, and consumers via
their Web site...
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