New USDA Study on Consumer Cooking Behavior Highlights Importance of Food Safety Education Month

WASHINGTON DC, September 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — New USDA study on consumer behavior in the kitchen highlights the importance of
Food Safety Education Month

Lack of handwashing remains a concern

WASHINGTON, September 19, 2023 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases, in celebration of Food Safety Education Month, the results of the final year of a five-year study that observed how consumers prepared their meals. The study was conducted by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as part of its efforts to highlight the importance of safe food handling practices.

“These studies are important for USDA to understand consumer behaviors in the kitchen and it is timely to release the latest findings during Food Safety Education Month,” said Under Secretary USDA USDA Food Safety Officer, Dr. Emilio Esteban. “The results allow us to shape food safety communications and help consumers prepare food safely.” »

The study observed food safety behaviors, including participants’ use of a thermometer for ground pork sausages, hand washing, and cleaning and disinfection of food preparation surfaces.

Hand washing

As we’ve seen over the previous four years of the study, thorough hand washing remains a concern. The most recent data shows that 87% of participants reported washing their hands before starting to cook in the test kitchen. However, only 44% of participants were observed doing so before meal preparation. Additionally, hand washing was not attempted in 83% of cases when it should have been done (e.g., touching raw sausages and unwashed cantaloupe, breaking eggs, equipment or contaminated surfaces). Throughout the study, 96% of handwashing attempts did not include all the necessary steps.

Using the thermometer

In the study, 50% of participants used a food thermometer to check the doneness of sausage patties. However, 50% of these participants did not check all patties with a food thermometer. It is important to check all pieces of food being cooked to ensure that they have all reached a safe internal temperature. The thickness and size of a food can cause it to cook at different temperatures.

Cross contamination

The study used a harmless tracer bacteria, injected into pork sausage, to simulate the spread of foodborne pathogenic bacteria during meal preparation. Of the surfaces tested, the kitchen sink was most commonly contaminated, with 34% of participants contaminating the sink while preparing meals. The second highest was cantaloupe, with 26% of participants introducing contamination by cutting cantaloupe during meal preparation. Contamination of fruits and vegetables, as well as other ready-to-eat foods, is of particular concern because these foods are eaten raw, without a final step like cooking, which kills bacteria.

For more information on food safety, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), email or live chat at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Access press releases and other information on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website at Follow FSIS on Twitter at or in Spanish at:

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  • New USDA Study on Consumer Cooking Behavior Highlights Importance of Food Safety Education Month
  • New USDA Study on Consumer Cooking Behavior Highlights Importance of Food Safety Education Month

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