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Advancing Accurate Consumer Use of Instant-Read Food Thermometers Through Grocery Stores and Women Infants and Children (WIC) Programs


The overall goal of this project is to increase knowledge and accurate use of food thermometers when preparing meat products in the general population and in underserved, hard-to-reach populations. <P>Objective 1 will assess the accuracy of dial and digital thermometers to measure endpoint temperature in ground meat patties using standard laboratory methods and methods reflecting common consumer practices. <P>Objective 2 will increase the knowledge and use of thermometers to assess doneness in meat products in two target audiences: 1) consumers who shop at retail food stores and 2) low income mothers participating in the WIC program. <P>Objective 3 will perform a needs assessment within the Hispanic population of the Pacific Northwest for types of messages and materials that can be used to promote the use of thermometers to assess doneness in meat products.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Less than 15 percent of U.S. consumers use food thermometers to determine doneness in ground beef patties. This percentage has not increased in the past 5 years. Foodborne pathogens can be present throughout ground meat products, making internal endpoint temperature critical to product safety. This leaves one of the most critical control points for the reduction of foodborne illness associated with raw ground meat in the hands of the consumer. It is known that inadequate cooking contributes to the number of foodborne illnesses experienced by US consumers. The purpose of this project is to increase the accurate use of food thermometers by consumers to control endpoint temperatures in meat, poultry, fish and egg products, thus reducing foodborne illness from these foods.
APPROACH: First, the accuracy of dial and digital thermometers using both standard laboratory methods and common consumer cooking practices will be examined to validate promoting both thermometer types in educational campaigns or to identify the most accurate type of thermometer for consumer use. Next, a marketing campaign for retail stores will be designed with food retail partners to distribute USDA Is it done yet? materials along with materials from a previous thermometer use campaign in the Pacific Northwest; the effectiveness of the materials will be evaluated by measuring consumer movement along the Stage of Change continuum toward regular thermometer use for meat products. Additionally, previously developed materials will be adapted for distribution through the WIC program and evaluated for effectiveness in moving low-income mothers along the Stage of Change continuum toward regular use of meat thermometers. Finally, a needs assessment will be performed to identify how the promotional materials can be appropriately adapted for the Hispanic population in the Pacific Northwest.

McCurdy, Sandy
University of Idaho
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