Safety Campaign Focuses On Using Food Thermometers

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  1/31/2006 11:19:26 PM

Experts stress a food thermometer is the best tool for indicating when harmful bacteria have been destroyed.

News You Can Use For February 2006

The answer to the hungry question, "Is it Done Yet?" is the basis of a national campaign to encourage the use of food thermometers when preparing meat, poultry and egg dishes, to prevent foodborne illness.

The campaign, which is being led by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has the theme, "Is It Done Yet? You Can't Tell By Looking. Use a Food Thermometer to be Sure!"

LSU AgCenter nutritionist and food safety expert Dr. Beth Reames says studies have shown that using a food thermometer is the only way to tell if harmful bacteria have been destroyed. For instance, even if they look fully cooked, one in four hamburgers may not be adequately cooked.

Despite this disparity, only 6 percent of home cooks use a food thermometer for hamburgers and only 10 percent use a food thermometer for chicken breasts, according to the latest data from the Food Safety Survey, conducted by FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration.

According to FSIS Acting Administrator Dr. Barbara Masters, "By using a food thermometer to check whether meat, poultry or egg dishes are done, you also prevent overcooking and guesswork. Food cooked to a safe internal temperature is juicy and flavorful. If you use a food thermometer, then you'll know the answer to 'Is It Done Yet?' We encourage people to get a food thermometer and become a role model in their neighborhood."

Reames offers three tips for using a food thermometer properly.

– Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the food, making sure it doesn't touch bone, fat or gristle.

– Cook food until the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160 F for hamburger, pork and egg dishes; 145 F for steaks and roasts; 170 F for chicken breasts and 180 F for whole poultry.

– Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use.

FSIS has created a Web site to provide consumers with recommended internal temperatures and instructions on how to use a food thermometer: www.IsItDoneYet.gov. FSIS is partnering with various organizations, agencies and local groups to help spread this important food safety message.

For food safety information in English and Spanish, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or TTY: 1-800-256-7072. The year-round toll-free hotline can be called Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. An extensive selection of timely food safety messages also is available at the same number 24 hours a day.

Consumers also may pose food safety questions by logging on to FSIS's online automated response system called "Ask Karen," which is available on the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov. E-mail inquiries can be directed to MPHotline.fsis@usda.gov.

For related nutrition information, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter home page, at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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