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
01.nov.09
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
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820
Abstract:
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.
 

Clean the poop off hands before making semi-dried tomatoes — linked to spike in Australian hepatitis A cases

The Age, which is the primary newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, in the state of Victoria, reports that semi-dried tomatoes have been linked to several cases of hepatitis A.

Victoria’s chief health officer John Carnie issued a warning on Friday evening (Friday morning here since they’re about 14 hours ahead) advising people to avoid eating semi-dried tomatoes unless they are thoroughly cooked.

"People who may have semi-dried tomatoes at home should not eat them unless they are thoroughly cooked, such as in pizza and quiche. Restaurants and cafes should also follow this advice.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has received 12 hepatitis A notifications this week and several people infected have reported eating semi-dried tomatoes.
 

Michael Pollan — You’re no Julia Child

This will be brief because I have to cook dinner (another week in Venice, Florida, and supper will be permanently moved to 3:30 pm).

With the upcoming release of Julia and Julie, food pornographers everywhere are reminiscing about their love of Julia Child, widely credited with bringing French cooking to mainstream America.

Michael Pollan takes 8,272 words in tomorrow’s N.Y. Times magazine to say The Food Network appeals to eaters not cooks, that people wouldn’t be so fat if they had to make food with basic ingredients at home, and he’s nostalgic for his mother’s cooking.

Salon magazine has already driven a few trucks through the rather gaping holes in Pollan’s arguments and cherry-picked supporting evidence. About word 745, I recognized Pollan’s hypocrisy and wondered why I was reading this trash when I could be cooking?

And Dan Ackroyd at least deserves a cameo in the new movie for best Julia Child impersonation (although John Candy’s Julia on Second City TV, duking it out with Mr. Rogers in a boxing match during a satirical Battle of the PBS stars is a close second).
 

Evan finds Nestle refrigerated cookie dough; Doug cooks it (sorta)

During the evening of Thursday, June 18, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urged Coloradans not to eat raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

The next morning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to eat any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to the risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7. At the same time, Nestlé announced a voluntary recall of all Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products, “out of an abundance of caution.”

About 4:30 p.m. central time on Friday, June 19, 2009 (happy birthday, daughter Jaucelynn, avoid the raw cookie dough) colleague Evan reported that he had successfully obtained a package of Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough (above, right, exactly as shown). I say obtained because he didn’t have to pay for it. Evan went to a local supermarket, and saw, “a young kid, armed with a box cutter, standing beside a cart full of Nestle Toll House products.

“I asked if I could have one of them, to which he replied, ‘you’re not going to get a refund for it are you?’ I told him no, but he said he had to cut open the package so I couldn’t return it. The kid wasn’t wearing any gloves and was sweating, so I’m guessing he was out there for a while handling a potentially contaminated product.”

And he gave Evan the raw cookie dough, which Evan triple-bagged and refrigerated until Saturday.

Amy and Sorenne and I went grocery shopping this morning, and observed that the Nestle refrigerated products had been dutifully cleared out (left, exactly as shown). We did, however, buy a couple of other raw cookie dough products. I never eat the stuff, but understand that many are quite passionate about their raw cookie dough.

There are at least two potential problems with raw cookie dough: eating it, and cross-contamination. Evan and I videotaped a cooking experiment and the cookies get plenty hot to kill off potential pathogens (we’ll post that later).

Bill Marler has written about the uh, inadequacies of the labels on Nestle raw cookie dough. Not that anyone reads labels, or that everyone speaks English, but maybe there shoud be more of a declaration of potential risk.

And bigger type: not to sound like ole-man-grouchy-Powell, but even with my reading glasses I could barely read a damn thing on the label. The Kroger private selection brand says,

Keep refrigerated
Use before date on package
Do not eat unbaked cookie dough.

The Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough says,

Do not microwave unbaked Poppin Fresh dough
Bake before enjoying
Do not use if unsealed.

It would seems with at least 66 people sick with a serious illness – E. coli O157:H7 – of which 25 had to be hospitalized and seven will suffer long-term kidney damage, these labels sorta suck.

Oh, and according to a story carried by Bloomberg,

“The Toll House cookie brand is named for the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, whose owner, Ruth Wakefield, is credited with inventing the chocolate chip cookie in the 1930s."
 

PBS provides terrible advice for cooking hamburgers

This is why I don’t give money to PBS, or as Stephen Colbert refers to them, State-sponsored Jazz. Reminds me of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: they’re morons.

Maybe not about everything, but about stuff I know about, they’re morons.

PBS is broadcasting this video about how to cook moist, well-done hamburgers. The cross-contamination is awesome, way to go cooks. These people have no clue, even though they talk about bacteria, they still contaminate the rest of the kitchen with their bacterial-laden hands, and then go on to tell viewers that color is a good indicator for food safety.

Color is a lousy indicator for food safety. Use a tip-senstive thermometer.

You want a moist burger? Cook to about 150F, let sit for 5 minutes while the temperature rises to 160F
 

Are you smarter than a fifth grader — Mich??le Samarya-Timm turkey edition

Guest barfblogger Michéle Samarya-Timm, a Health Educator for the Franklin Township Health Department in New Jersey, decided I could use some blogging relief while awaiting the birth of my fifth daughter. It’s been an emotional ride, and I greatly appreciate the help.

Michéle writes, as an educator, it’s always interesting to discover what people in my community know (or don’t know) about food safety. And what their kids pick up from the kitchen.

A common project in grade schools this time of year is having the students write directions on how to cook a turkey. Sometimes, they’re even more educated than their parents…and sometimes not. Here’s a sampling from the web:

Kids Turkey directions

By: Drew — I put it in the oven at 100 degrees and cook it for 6 hours.

By: Doni – Put it in the oven and set it for 28 minutes at 388 degrees.
 
By: Brandon — I think the temperature of the oven is 251 degrees. My mom puts it in there for twenty minutes.

By: Quinn — My mom sets the oven for 400 degrees and cooks it for 7 minutes.

By Seth: You cook a turkey for 10 minutes. Then wait for ten minutes. Then cook the turkey at 2500 degrees.

By Savannah: First get everything you need. That would be turkey, tinfoil, spray bottle, pan, thermometer, and stuffing. Turn on the oven to the right degrees. Cook it for 20 minutes.

By Spencer: Buy a turkey. Then, stuff it. Put it in the oven for all day and night at 100 degrees. Take it out of the oven and put it on the table. Make sure you take the little red thing out.

By: Johanna — My mom bought a turkey. She put it in a pan and cooked it and cooked it. The temperature was 27 degrees. Hot! Then my mom cut the turkey’s head off and feet and wings and ate it.

By Madison: Cook the turkey for 25 minutes. Get it out as soon as it is done. But before you put in the little red thing. When the red things pop out that means the turkey is done. Then take it out.

By: Dylan — First you pull off the feathers. Next you clean it. Third, you put some seasoning on it. Next, you put a thermometer in. Fifth, you put it in a pan. Sixth, you put it in the stove. Next, you put it to 95 degrees. Next, you cook the turkey for sixty minutes.

I so appreciate the humor in Thanksgiving prep through a child’s eyes, but the handwashing advocate in me really wishes at least one mentioned soap and water as an important part of food preparation.

Hopefully, their parents will refer to the USDA Food Safety Education resource, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/food_safety_Education/Ask_Karen/#Question, the Butterball Turkey Talkline, http://www.butterball.com/tips-how-tos/turkey-experts/overview , FSnet and other experts for handwashing steps and other tips to ensure a foodsafe Thanksgiving.
 

Former Tasting and Complaining host forced to resign as Thai PM

Thailand’s prime minister was forced out of office Tuesday along with his Cabinet after a court ruled that he had broken a conflict-of-interest law by hosting TV cooking shows.

There sure is a lot of crap on TV cooking shows. We covered it in our 2004 paper here.

Others have apparently borrowed our idea. Imitation is a form of flattery, I guess. Or it’s just posing.

Samak Sundaravej’s 73, a self-proclaimed foodie, hosted a popular television cooking show — "Tasting and Complaining" — for seven years before becoming prime minister. But he also made several appearances after taking office, breaking a constitutional prohibition on private employment while in office.

The best way to cook vegetables?

“There is a misperception that raw foods are always going to be better. For fruits and vegetables, a lot of times a little bit of cooking and a little bit of processing actually can be helpful.”

So says Steven K. Clinton, a nutrition researcher and professor of internal medicine in the medical oncology division at Ohio State University.

Numerous studies show that people who consume lots of vegetables have lower rates of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, eye problems and even cancer. But how should they be served?

Surprisingly, reports Tara Parker-Pope in today’s New York Times, raw and plain vegetables are not always best.

Researchers will report in the British Journal of Nutrition next month that in a study involving 198 Germans who strictly adhered to a raw food diet, participants had normal levels of vitamin A and relatively high levels of beta carotene, but they fell short when it came to lycopene (found in abundance in these processing tomatoes, right)

The amount and type of nutrients that eventually end up in the vegetables are affected by a number of factors before they reach the plate, including where and how they were grown, processed and stored before being bought. Then, it’s up to you. No single cooking or preparation method is best. Water-soluble nutrients like vitamins C and B and a group of nutrients called polyphenolics are often lost in processing. For instance, studies show that after six months, frozen cherries have lost as much as 50 percent of anthocyanins, the healthful compounds found in the pigment of red and blue fruits and vegetables. Fresh spinach loses 64 percent of its vitamin C after cooking. Canned peas and carrots lose 85 percent to 95 percent of their vitamin C, according to data compiled by the University of California, Davis.

Fat-soluble compounds like vitamins A, D, E and K and the antioxidant compounds called carotenoids are less likely to leach out in water. Cooking also breaks down the thick cell walls of plants, releasing the contents for the body to use. That is why processed tomato products have higher lycopene content than fresh tomatoes.

In January, a report in The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry concluded that over all, boiling was better for carrots, zucchini and broccoli than steaming, frying or serving them raw. Frying was by far the worst..

That report did not look at the effects of microwaving, but a March 2007 study in The Journal of Food Science looked at the effects of boiling, steaming, microwaving and pressure cooking on the nutrients in broccoli. Steaming and boiling caused a 22 percent to 34 percent loss of vitamin C. Microwaved and pressure-cooked vegetables retained 90 percent of their vitamin C.

What accompanies the vegetables can also be important. Studies at Ohio State measured blood levels of subjects who ate servings of salsa and salads. When the salsa or salad was served with fat-rich avocados or full-fat salad dressing, the diners absorbed as much as 4 times more lycopene, 7 times more lutein and 18 times the beta carotene than those who had their vegetables plain or with low-fat dressing.

Below, processing tomatoes being harvested in an Ontario field.

How to thaw and cook turkey

"You get the sense that people pay more attention to food safety (on Thanksgiving) than any other day of the year, and they should do the same the other 364 days of the year."

That’s what I said to the Kansas State University newspaper yesterday as the U.S. gets ready to launch into its annual six-week orgy of shopping and food known as the holidays.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and my favorite holiday. Canada has Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, about 5 weeks before the American version because it’s colder and the crops are harvested earlier. I blogged about turkeys back then, but here goes again.

I thaw meat on the counter, in a roasting pan. Some governments and industry hate this, but it works and can be safe. Pete Snyder at the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a nice summary available at http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Thaw-counter.html. My group wrote a review note on the topic a few years ago, and it is included in its entirety at http://barfblog.foodsafety.ksu.edu/2007/10/articles/food-safety-communication/how-to-thaw-poultry-ignore-government/

However you prepare the bird, don’t wash the bird — that just spreads dangerous bacteria everywhere — and wash your damn hands when you’re done. And during. There’s nothing worse than those celebrity chefs who play with raw product and then touch everything else in the kitchen, including ready-to-eat food, contaminating everything. Pete’s method is at http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Handflow.html.

Clean up the counter and everywhere to avoid cross-contamination. Tips on that are available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/en/article-details.php?a=2&c=8&sc=291&id=619

And use a digital, tip-sensitive meat thermometer to ensure the bird reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Color is a lousy indicator of doneness.

Cool leftovers promptly. I make a decent turkey stock. Try to enjoy your family — mine were here last weekend — and don’t make them barf.