Many Don't Handle Poultry Safely When Cooking

Too few use food thermometers, too many wash and store meat in way that spreads germs, researcher says

SUNDAY, Feb. 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Many Americans do not follow recommended safety practices when handling and cooking poultry, a new study finds.

Fewer than two-thirds of consumers have a food thermometer, and less than 10 percent of those who have the devices use them to check if poultry is cooked to a safe temperature, the researchers reported.

"The USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] recommends consumers use a food thermometer to check for doneness of meat and poultry," study author Katherine Kosa, a food and nutrition policy researcher at RTI International, said in a news release from the nonprofit organization based in Durham, N.C.

"Pathogens, such as salmonella and Campylobacter, may be present on raw poultry. Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present," Kosa noted. "USDA recommends that consumers cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit."

Among people with a food thermometer, use of the device was higher (57 percent to 73 percent) when they were cooking whole chickens and turkeys, according to the study published in the January issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

Kosa and her colleagues also found that nearly 70 percent of consumers rinse or wash raw poultry before cooking it. This is potentially unsafe because contaminated water may splash and spread bacteria to other foods and kitchen surfaces.

Only 18 percent of Americans correctly store raw poultry in the fridge, and only 11 percent who thaw raw poultry in cold water do it correctly, the researchers said.

The findings will be used to develop materials to educate consumers about food safety, Kosa said.