Most Americans Fail
Food Safety Quiz
NEW YORK - Summer is here, time for picnics, beach parties, barbecues - and an increased risk for food poisoning due to careless food handling. Most Americans know that summer is the peak time for foodborne illness, but still flunk 6 out of 10 questions on a summertime food safety quiz, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
For example, an ADA survey found that nearly 90 percent of Americans surveyed do not consistently use a meat thermometer to check the "doneness" of cooked meat or poultry. And 93 percent of the 565 American adults questioned failed to use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of cooked egg dishes.
About 70 percent of survey respondents store a cooler of food in the car trunk rather than inside the air-conditioned car, and 40 percent did not know that they should clean a picnic cooler between uses with soap and water.
The majority of those questioned did know to wash hands during food preparation at a picnic site (53 percent), and to use separate utensils (58 percent) and plates (81 percent) for raw and grilled foods to prevent cross-contamination.
When asked why they did not follow the "best" food guidelines, 40 percent of respondents said time was a factor, and nearly 30 percent said they simply did not know about home food safety.
Foodborne illness is caused by bacterial contamination of foods. Symptoms include vomiting, stomach pains and diarrhea, but other food poisoning symptoms such as fevers, muscle aches, exhaustion or dizziness are often mistaken for the 24-hour flu, say ADA officials.
With in-home cases of foodborne illnesses up 25 percent in the past 5 years, "this survey definitely shows a need for more home food safety information," said Lynn Phares, president of the ConAgra Foundation, the philanthropic division of the international food company ConAgra.
Health professionals, food industry experts, and government agencies advise consumers to follow four easy food handling practices: Wash hands often; keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate; cook everything to proper temperatures; and refrigerate foods promptly below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, never leaving foods out in warm weather for more than one hour.
"We want these four easy actions to become second nature in the kitchen or at the grill. When you get into a car, you automatically think to strap on a seat belt; in turn, we want Americans to always use a meat thermometer and wash their hands more often," said Joan Horbiak, ADA dietitian and food safety expert, in a statement.
The survey was conducted by the ADA and the ConAgra Foundation.