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Epic fail: 97 percent have dirty hands at the dining table, in the kitchen



Source: USDA

Source: USDA

The US Department of Agriculture reports that new research shows that consumers are not properly cleaning their hands when it comes to washing them before meals. To be precise, 97 percent fail in basic hand washing.

The study showed that hasty and improper hand washing increases the risk of cross contamination from food, kitchen utensils, and surfaces such as refrigerator handles and countertops.

Carmen Rottenberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Food Security at USDA, is the mother of three young children and uses her personal perspective to describe the significance of the research report. She is "very familiar with the crazy line that families go through to put food on the table."

"You can not see, smell, or feel bacteria. By washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen."

The study's behavior examined by consumers in a test kitchen, was conducted by the USDA, RTI International and North Carolina State University. Preliminary observational results have shown some results in the following categories:

Hand Washing

  • Consumers mistreated their hands 97 percent of the time;
  • Most consumers could not wash their hands for the necessary 20 hands seconds; and
  • Numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel

Thermometer use

  • Only 34 percent of the participants used a nutrition thermometer to check that their burgers were cooked properly; and
  • Of those who used the nourishment thermometer, about half did not yet cook the burgers to the safe minimum internal temperature to kill pathogens.

Cross contamination

  • Participants were observed to eat bacteria from raw poultry on surfaces and other food in the test kitchen;
  • Forty-eight percent of the time they contaminated spice jars used in burgers;
  • 11 percent of the time they spread bacteria on refrigerator grips; and
  • 5 percent of the time they were salads due to cross-contamination.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million Americans suffer from food-borne diseases each year, leading to approximately 128,000 hospital admissions and 3,000 deaths. "Children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk," warns the CDC.

With the onset of summer and the popularity of the outdoor barbecue season, the USDA reminds consumers to use a thermometer and cook meat poultry products to the recommended safe indoor temperatures. Meat and poultry products are considered "ready" when they reach the following minimum temperatures:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 degrees F;
  • minced meat (including burgers and sausages)): 160 degrees F; and
  • Poultry (whole or ground): 165 degrees F.

When checking the inside temperature while cooking meat and poultry patties, insert the thermometer through the side of the patty until the probe reaches the center of the Patty.

"Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meat, poultry or eggs," the USDA says. Be sure to wash your hands for a full 20 seconds and remember to dry them afterwards only on clean towels.

For more information, see a summary of the study here

Additionally, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available at 888-MP-HOTLINE (888-674-6854)

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