Food Safety is a Matter of Degree

Global Food Safety Conference 2014 kicked off recently in Anaheim, California with a record-breaking attendance.  It seems that everyone is concerned about the condition of the food they eat, if they have it to eat. reports that during the main address, Jayson Lusk, Professor & Willard Sparks Endowed Chair, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Oklahoma State, talked about the change in the food system, risk and consumers. He said that food is safer than ever before. I had to chuckle, then, when further down in the same publication I came to Dr. Doug Powell’s blog, Stickit In:  Thermometers, Not Color, Requiredto Cook Safely.” For years, Dr. Powell has promoted cooking meat with thermometers to ensure doneness---and he’s not just referring to home cooks.  Restaurants need to insert measuring sticks, too.  The same goes for grocery stores that prepare food in-house for sale.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says “the only way to know food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.”
How many hamburger joints do you think protested this statement? How many of them even know about it?
In 1995, a study by Kansas State University stated that ground beef may become brown before it’s cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature of 160° F, sufficient to destroy lurking pathogens. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) asked the USDA to examine the color of ground beef nationwide to check for doneness.
The reported findings?
·    1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown before it’s been cooked to a safe internal temperature.
·     And yet, only 6 percent of main meal cooks checked hamburgers with a food thermometer, according to a 2002 consumer food safety survey conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and FSIS.
Yet our food is safer than ever before, reports Lusk. 
The findings make me think twice about going out to eat.  And I’m going to buy a new meat thermometer this weekend.

Robyn Barnes, a public relations specialist at MasterControl Inc., writes about the life sciences industry and other regulated environments. Her three decades of marketing and public relations experience include work with USAA, Morrison Knudsen Corp., and KBHome Inc. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in business from New Mexico State University.