Direct video observation of adults and tweens cooking raw frozen chicken thingies

One of the first things I did after officially joining Kansas State University in 2006 was try and figure out some novel research. Chapman flew in from Guelph, we had a beer with Phebus at a local bar and sketched out a proposal on the back of a napkin, to observe people cooking chicken.

Sarah Wilson, my composed colleague from the Guelph days, drafted the proposal and it got funded by the American Meat Institute.

The observational research was conducted in 2007 and the results were published this week by the British Food Journal.

Chapman created a novel video capture system to observe the food preparation practices of 41 consumers and the press summary is below, as is the abstract.
A Kansas State University study has shown that when preparing frozen foods, adolescents are less likely than adults to wash their hands and are more susceptible to cross-contaminating raw foods while cooking.

"While half of the adults we observed washed their hands after touching raw chicken, none of the adolescents did," said Casey Jacob, a food safety research assistant at K-State. "The non-existent hand washing rate, combined with certain age-specific behaviors like hair flipping and scratching in a variety of areas, could lead directly to instances of cross-contamination compared to the adults."

Food safety isn’t simple, and instructions for safe handling of frozen chicken entrees or strips are rarely followed by consumers despite their best intentions, said Doug Powell, K-State associate professor of food safety who led the study.

As the number and type of convenience meal solutions increases — check out the frozen food section of a local supermarket — the researchers found a need to understand how both adults and adolescents are preparing these products and what can be done to enhance the safety of frozen foods.

In 2007, K-State researchers developed 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 frozen, uncooked, commercially available breaded chicken products. The researchers wanted to determine actual food handling behavior of these two groups in relation to safe food handling practices and instructions provided on product labels. Self-report surveys were used to determine whether differences exist between consumers’ reported food handling practices and observed behavior.

The research appeared in the November 2009 issue of the British Food Journal. In addition to Jacob and Powell, the authors were: Sarah DeDonder, K-State doctoral student in pathobiology; Brae Surgeoner, Powell’s former graduate student; Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and Powell’s former graduate student; and Randall Phebus, K-State professor of animal science and industry.

Beyond the discrepancy between adult and adolescent food safety practices, the researchers also found that even when provided with instructions, food preparers don’t follow them. They may not have even seen them or they assume they know what to do.

"Our results suggest that while labels might contain correct risk-reduction steps, food manufacturers have to make that information as compelling as possible or it will be ignored,” Chapman said.

They also found that observational research using discreet video recording is far more accurate than self-reported surveys. For example, while almost all of the primary meal preparers reported washing hands after every instance in which they touched raw poultry, only half were observed washing hands correctly after handling chicken products in the study.

Powell said that future work will examine the effectiveness of different food safety labels, messages and delivery mechanisms on consumer behavior in their home kitchens.

Self-reported and observed behavior of primary meal preparers and adolescents during preparation of frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products
British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929
Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820
Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.
Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.
Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.
Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Can citrus-scented Windex make the world a better place?

From the reading-too-much–into-the-results-of-a-study category, researchers have found that people are unconsciously fairer and more generous when they are in clean-smelling environments.

The research found a dramatic improvement in ethical behavior with just a few spritzes of citrus-scented Windex.

Katie Liljenquist, assistant professor of organizational leadership at BYU’s Marriott School of Management, is the lead author on the piece in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.

The researchers see implications for workplaces, retail stores and other organizations that have relied on traditional surveillance and security measures to enforce rules.
"Companies often employ heavy-handed interventions to regulate conduct, but they can be costly or oppressive," said Liljenquist, whose office smells quite average. "This is a very simple, unobtrusive way to promote ethical behavior."

The study titled "The Smell of Virtue" was unusually simple and conclusive.

Participants engaged in several tasks, the only difference being that some worked in unscented rooms, while others worked in rooms freshly spritzed with Windex.

The first experiment evaluated fairness. As a test of whether clean scents would enhance reciprocity, participants played a classic "trust game." Subjects received $12 of real money (allegedly sent by an anonymous partner in another room). They had to decide how much of it to either keep or return to their partners who had trusted them to divide it fairly. Subjects in clean-scented rooms were less likely to exploit the trust of their partners, returning a significantly higher share of the money.

Maybe it’s time to improve personal hygiene and stock up on the Irish Moss-scented Mennen Speed Stick.

If food safety is so simple why do the so-called experts disagree? And who’s an expert?

It’s food safety month in September, so expect to hear lots of sanctimonious statements about how simple food safety is if only the people would do things the right way.

But what’s the right way?

Food safety is not simple.

Anyone who says so is full of it.

And any food safety nerd knows there are major disagreements about all levels of food safety minutia.

Eating Well magazine asked 10 questions of some food safety types earlier this year and a bunch of stories are now on-line.. The differences in the answers reveal how un-simple food safety is, and how different people talk with journalists.

The Eating Well piece poses some questions, but doesn’t address the hard ones: Who is an expert (a word I hate)? Who is competent to offer advice about anything? Who am I to answer anything, to offer an opinion?

At and, we actually have a policy on how to answer questions, how we provide advice, and it’s being updated.

The magazine has its 10 commandments of food safety, but like fallen angels, commandments are open to interpretation. Judge for yourselves.

Your contestants are:

Ming Tsai, owner, Blue Ginger, his award-wining East-meets-West restaurant in Wellesley Massachusetts.

Bill Marler, managing partner and personal injury lawyer at Marler Clark.

Linda Kender, an associate professor in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

Richard Vergili, a professor in hospitality management at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA)

Catherine Donnelly, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Vermont.

Donna Rosenbaum, co-founder and executive director of Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.).

Marion Nestle, professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University.

Scott Donnelly, a product safety authority with more than two decades of food industry experience.

Douglas Powell, Ph.D, associate professor, food safety, Kansas State University.

Try to distinguish the wordy from the brief, the fact-based and the faith-based approaches to food safety. Match up the bios with the responses and spot the hypocricy.

Eating Well asked, do you always:

1. Use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep your food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F).

Tsai: At Blue Ginger, yes, and [a thermometer] is built in the Sub-Zero fridges we use at home.
Marler: Yes.
Kender: I check the temperature of my refrigerator once a week, especially during the summer months.
Vergili: Yes, unless I plan to use the food within a couple of hours.
Donnelly: Yes. I consider my refrigerator to be my most important food-safety device. Knowing the temperature of the refrigerator you use to store food is critical to keep food safe. Many refrigerators in the U.S. operate at unsafe temperatures, and the warmer foods are stored, the more quickly bacteria, including pathogens, can grow.
Rosenbaum: Yes. Appliance thermometers are easy to find in hardware stores. I recommend using one in the freezer as well. It is especially important to check the internal temperatures of secondary refrigerators/freezers kept in basements, garages or other places of more extreme room temperature.
Nestle: No. I live in a tiny apartment in New York and have a small refrigerator. Nothing stays in it that long.
Donnelly: No.
Powell: Fridges fluctuate and thermometers are the only way to acquire accurate data.

2. Defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter.

Tsai  Yes.
Marler: Yes.
Kender: Mostly I defrost in the refrigerator, but there have been occasions that I had to resort to the cold running water method.
Vergili: No, I will occasionally let something begin to defrost on the counter when I am home. For example, today I had some frozen wrapped spare ribs sitting out for a little over [an] hour that [were] still partially frozen. [I] then seasoned and refrigerated [the ribs] for dinner tonight.
Donnelly: Yes. When defrosting any potentially hazardous food, particularly meats or poultry, it is important to make sure juices are contained by using sealed bags or containers. Juices can contain harmful pathogens which can contaminate surfaces and people coming into contact with these juices. Again, the warmer potentially hazardous foods are stored, the more potential growth for dangerous bacterial pathogens to levels which can cause disease.
Rosenbaum: Yes. This is especially important with meat, poultry & seafood. When defrosting meat, poultry or seafood in the refrigerator, however, it is important to make sure that it is on a platter or tray and cannot drip raw juices as it defrosts onto or into foods stored below.
Nestle: Not exactly. I don’t have much counter space so I’m most likely to leave it out in a bowl.
Donnelly: I rarely defrost. When I do, I leave the food out on the counter for less than 4 hours.
Powell: I defrost on the counter. I just don’t leave it there very long.

3. Always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods.

Tsai: Definitely—especially because of food allergies, too, on cross contamination.
Marler: Yes.
Kender: No. I always wash, rinse, and sanitize my cutting board when switching proteins or going to a no cook product.
Vergili: No, I will thoroughly clean the same cutting board and use the same board for both raw and cooked products.
Donnelly: Yes, and I make sure to regularly clean and sanitize these boards after use.
Rosenbaum: I do, but this isn’t always practical. It’s more important to clean and sanitize cutting boards thoroughly between uses, even if you only use it for one type of item. Also, inspect your cutting boards from time to time. When they develop deep knife grooves it may be harder for cleaning solutions to reach and kill any bacteria present and then it’s time to replace the board.
Nestle: No. I wash the one I have in between [uses].
Donnelly: Yes. Or I clean and sanitize the same board.
Powell: No, but I clean cutting boards thoroughly.

4. Always cook meat to proper temperatures, using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to make sure.

Tsai: No, I love my burgers rare and my lamb and steak medium rare. I will be struck by lightning or chomped by a great white before undercooked meats get me!
Marler: Yes.
Kender: No. In my house we like our steaks medium rare and our burgers pink in the middle. No one in the high-risk category lives in my home.
Vergili: I have a preference for many grilled foods to be undercooked such as tuna and pasture-raised porterhouse pork chops.
Donnelly: Most of the time. When grilling, I purchase low-risk products (intact muscle meats as opposed to ground beef) and insure that the outsides of these products (where contamination resides) are well cooked. For poultry and roasts, I always use a meat thermometer.
Rosenbaum: Yes, I always use a thermometer. In regards to beef, it is impossible to tell when it is safe to eat without using a thermometer. The color of the cooked meat is a very inaccurate indicator for safety. Different types of beef require different cooking temperatures and the type of thermometer used may also vary. Very thin beef patties, for instance, are best checked with a thermocouple (a type of temperature sensor) while roasts and steaks can use a larger-gauge thermometer.
Nestle: I cook it hot enough but don’t use a thermometer.
Donnelly: No. I use visual cues based on experience.
Powell: Yes. Color is a lousy indicator. I feel naked without a thermometer.

5. Avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days.

Tsai: No, I love the flavor of unpasteurized. See above for lightning and shark.
Marler: Yes!
Kender: Yes, absolutely. I also avoid unpasteurized cider and fruit juices as well.
Vergili: As a rule yes, but I have gone out of my way to buy “certified” raw milk on rare occasions and tasted cheese from a known cheese maker as well. Frankly, there are some questions surrounding cheese made from raw milk and listeriosis despite 60 days of aging.
Donnelly: I do not consume raw milk as I know this is a high-risk product, and most producers are exempt from requirements specified in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance which greatly enhance milk safety. For raw milk cheeses aged for less than 60 days, if they are AOC or PDO cheeses which I am purchasing and consuming in Europe, I have great confidence in the regulations and production procedures/processes which include stringent microbiological criteria, thus I know these cheeses pose a low food-safety risk. Cheeses made by unlicensed manufacturers and distributed illegally pose a great public health risk and I would not consume such products.
Rosenbaum: Yes. I believe the risk inherent in any raw dairy product far outweighs any potential benefit. This is especially important for pregnant women to avoid as they are at risk for contracting Listeriosis from raw dairy products, which carries a high rate of premature labor and spontaneous abortion.
Nestle: Not always. If I know the supplier, I’ll take the small risk.
Donnelly: Raw milk cheese is safe; raw milk is not.
Powell: Yup. Not worth the risk, especially for pregnant women, and my wife had a baby six months ago.

6. Never eat “runny” eggs or foods, such as cookie dough, that contain raw eggs.

Tsai: No, again, shark and lightning. But at BG, we do use pasteurized eggs and egg whites for desserts (like sabayon and in the hollandaise we make once a year for the Greater Boston Food Bank’s Super Hunger Brunch).
Marler: Correct.
Kender: I never eat runny eggs or anything that contains raw eggs. I even prepare my own Caesar salad dressing using pasteurized egg yolks.
Vergili: No, I will eat classic scrambled eggs which are a bit runny, as well as a poached egg cooked less than the 145ºF [that] the codes call for.
Donnelly: Yes. I avoid consumption of raw eggs. There are excellent pasteurized egg products available to consumers which substantially reduce risks posed by pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria.
Rosenbaum: This is difficult to answer with the word “never” in it. My answer would depend on whether or not pasteurized eggs were used. When dining out, I always ask whether raw eggs were used in dishes such as sauces, mousses, tiramisù and dressings. If so, then I would avoid these foods unless I knew the facility was using pasteurized eggs. At home, pasteurized-in-shell eggs have become available in my area and I use these whenever I want to enjoy foods that would be risky if using regular eggs and not cooking thoroughly. Interested consumers can request that their grocers carry in-shell pasteurized eggs.
Nestle: Don’t be silly. I’m human.
Donnelly: Eggs should be cooked.
Powell: Nope.

7. Always wash your hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs.

Tsai: Yes, definitely!
Marler: Yes.
Kender: I must admit that at my home I may not get through “Happy Birthday” twice before working with some food items, but absolutely always after working with raw meats and poultry!
Vergili: Yes, this is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of both pathogenic bacteria and viruses without compromising the culinary preference for a food.
Donnelly: Yes, and I prefer to use antibacterial soaps after handling these products.
Rosenbaum: Yes, or use hand sanitizer. It’s important to thoroughly clean the faucet handle if you’ve touched it after handling raw foods, too. Also, take along hand sanitizers when going to picnics and barbecues away from home where soap and warm running water would be hard to find.
Nestle: Wash hands, yes, but I don’t count seconds.
Donnelly: Yes.
Powell: Nope. 20 seconds is too long and water temperature doesn’t matter; but I do wash my hands routinely.

8. Always heat leftover foods to 165ºF.

Tsai: Yes.
Marler: Yes.
Kender: Never have leftovers at my home.
Vergili: No, as stated, this is one of the most misunderstood regulations. The recommendation basically pertains to leftover items in large volumes like chili or thick soups that need to be reheated slowly to ensure quality. A piece of beef previously cooked, such as a serving of prime rib, need not be reheated to 165ºF (it becomes more like pot roast).
Donnelly: Yes.
Rosenbaum: I do not generally use a thermometer for leftovers. I do re-cook soups and liquids until they boil, and heat other leftovers until they are steaming. It’s important to stop midway and stir food reheated in the microwave due to cold spots and uneven heating.
Nestle: I get them steaming hot, but don’t measure.
Donnelly: No. I use common sense.
Powell: Nope. 140ºF is sufficient if it has already been cooked.

9. Never eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables that have been left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures hotter than 90°F).

Tsai: Fruits and veggies, fine. Meat and seafood, no! At BG, we are always very cognizant of the temperature danger zone; everything is refrigerated and/or cooled down properly.
Marler: Yes.
Kender: Never….especially during summer here in New England. I insist that all our outdoor activities, such as cookouts, have ice, and lots of it, that is used to keep the salads and other food items cold.
Vergili: No, if [it’s] at a group gathering, I would consider eating a raw vegetable or fruit that has been served unrefrigerated (assuming it hasn’t become oxidized, [which I find] unappealing).
Donnelly: Yes, Adherence to proper storage temperatures and the 2-hour rule are proven food-safety measures.
Rosenbaum: Yes. The rule in our house is, “If in doubt, throw it out!” I try to have several trays of the same food prepared when I entertain so they can be rotated and refrigerated in between.
Nestle: You don’t say whether these are cooked or uncooked or what the ambient temperature might be. Microbial growth rates depend on those factors.
Donnelly: No. I use common sense. 4 hours is the limit
Powell: did not offer a response (shurley sum mistake – dp)

10. Whenever there’s a food recall, check products stored at home to make sure they are safe.

Tsai: Yes.
Marler: Yes.
Kender: Yes. I receive recall notices at work and take that information home with me and always double check what I’ve purchased
Vergili: Yes, I would do that.
Donnelly: Yes. In fact, I just returned some cookie dough to a retail outlet for a refund.
Rosenbaum: Yes, and since recall information on food products is very difficult for consumers to obtain, my organization constantly looks for recalls and sends them in daily e-alerts to email inboxes. Anyone can sign up to receive them by sending a request to or go to our website daily at to view them. Some stores post food recalls, while others send text messages or mailed notices. It is important for consumers to throw away or return for refund any product subject to a recall, as these products have either already made people sick or have a high likelihood of being contaminated. If you believe someone in your family has already eaten the product and/or gotten ill, you should keep the product and safely wrap and store it for the health authorities to test.
Nestle: I’ve never had a product involved in a recall except the can of recalled pet food given to me as a research gift for my book, Pet Food Politics.
Donnelly: I purchase locally grown, fresh foods.
Powell: Sure.

Why blame the consumer when the outbreaks are elsewhere

Memorial Day is Monday, so it’s time to play, blame the consumer.

Foodborne illness outbreaks have been a regular feature in the news lately and are top of mind when consumers think of food and health issues, but new International Food Information Council Foundation research shows that fewer people are taking basic precautions that could significantly reduce their risk of becoming sick.

Are consumers supposed to cook their peanut butter? Extra roast those pistachios? Sauté the leafy greens and cook the tomatoes?

The survey results are based on self-reported behaviors – do you wash your hands, yes I wash my hands, but not really – so should be immediately consigned to the garbage-in-garbage-out bin.

My favorite question of late is to ask audiences of VP food safety types and other titans of industry how many of them use a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer when they grill chicken breast or burgers for their friends and family, since they are quality control types and really care about data.

Guess it’s follow what I preach, not what I practice.

Food safety information: rapid, reliable, repeated and relevant

Rapid, reliable, repeated and relevant. That’s been the food safety mantra at iFSN for over a decade. Here’s why.

Dr. Carol Byrd-Bredbenner of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that many college students engaged in eating behaviors that could make them sick.

Based on surveys of 4,343 students at 21 colleges and universities across the U.S.,

53 percent reported eating raw homemade cookie dough (which contains uncooked eggs), 33 percent said they ate fried eggs with soft or runny yolks, 29 percent ate sushi, and 28 percent consumed raw sprouts. Eleven percent said they ate raw oysters, clams or mussels, and 7 percent said they ate pink hamburger.

I won’t begin to get into all the faults with these kinds of measures or the near futility of drawing any meaningful conclusions from self-reported surveys.

Even so, the authors figured that,

"current food safety education efforts may not provide the information and/or motivation needed to compel individuals to change their consumption levels of risky foods. … Health professionals should focus creative efforts on developing safe food consumption behaviors in this group and thereby help safeguard the health of this population and enable them to fulfill the role of protecting the health of their future families."

Don’t eat poop.