Food safety quick hits

KETV in Omaha is reporting that Girl Scout cookies are safe to eat — the peanut butter products that are used to make them are not produced by Peanut Corp of America:

The peanut butter supplier associated with the recent salmonella outbreak does not supply peanut butter to Girl Scout Cookies, according to the Girl Scouts organization.

The Girl Scout organization’s supplier is Hampton Farms in North Carolina.

In the somewhat-related-to-food-safety category, a man who helped create the science behind the microwave oven has died. Robert Decareau of Amherst, NH passed away on Sunday at 82.

According to his family, Decareau was a Massachusetts native who went to work for Raytheon after earning his doctorate in chemistry. It was there that he started working on microwave energy food applications, and he was one of the first to call himself a food scientist.

Decareau’s daughter, Karen Ross of Auburn, Maine, says she remembers her father experimenting with a refrigerator-sized prototype microwave oven in the family’s basement in the 1960s.

Frozen, raw or partially cooked foods have been problematic for consumers — especially when they contain pathogens.  There have been at least eight outbreaks linked to, as Doug likes to call them, chicken thingies since 1998.  Using a microwave has been reported as a factor in these outbreaks. Pot pies have also been linked to microwave problems. Uneven heat distribution makes microwaving a not-so-good method to cook raw foods especially if digital tip-sensitive thermometers aren’t used.  Sarah DeDonder presented some of our research at IAFP last year on microwave cooking practices in a model kitchen. A paper on the research will be published later this year.

Dedonder, S., Powell, D.A., Jacob, C., Surgeoner, B., Chapman, B., and Phebus, R. 2008. Beyond Intent — Direct Observation Of Meal Preparation Procedures In A Home Kitchen Setting.


Purpose – This study used a novel video capture system to observe the food preparation practices of 41 consumers – 21 primary meal preparers and 20 adolescents – in a mock domestic kitchen using uncooked, frozen, breaded chicken products, and to determine if differences exist between consumers’ reported safe food handling practices and actual food handling behavior as prescribed on current product labels.

Design/methodology/approach – A convenience sample was utilized and all participants were video-recorded preparing food in one-of-two model kitchens at Kansas State University. Participants were asked to complete a survey reporting food handling behaviors that would be typical of their own home kitchen.

Findings – Differences between self-reported and observed food safety behaviors were seen across both groups of consumers. Many participants reported owning a food thermometer (73 per cent) and indicated using one when cooking raw, breaded chicken entrées (19.5 per cent); however, only five participants were observed measuring the final internal temperature with a food thermometer despite instructions on the product packaging to do so; only three used the thermometer correctly.

Significance – Data collected through direct observation more accurately reflects consumer food handling behaviors than data collected through self-reported surveys, and label instructions are rarely followed.

Originality/value – This study contributes to the overall understanding of consumer behaviors associated with consumers’ intentions and actual behaviors while preparing meat and poultry products, such as frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Culture and tagged , , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.