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Thermometer Project

Removing Barriers to Food Thermometer Use

by: Masami Takeuchi and Val Hillers

9/27/2005


Improving Consumer Food Safety Habits:
Removing Barriers for Food Thermometer Use


Project Summary October, 2004

Principal Investigators:
Virginia N. Hillers, PhD, RD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Washington State University; hillersv@wsu.edu
Sandra M. McCurdy, PhD, School of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Idaho; smccurdy@uidaho.edu
Elaine Mayes, MS, RD, WSU-Puyallup, Washington State University; emayes@wsu.edu
Miriam Edlefsen, PhD, RD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Washington State University; medlefsen@wsu.edu
Dong-Hyun Kang, PhD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Washington State University dhkang@mail.wsu.edu

Graduate Students:
Masami T. Takeuchi, PhD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Washington State University; masamito@gocougs.wsu.edu
Zena M. Edwards, MS, RD, Thurston County Cooperative Extension, Washington State Uniersity; edwardz@co.thurston.wa.us
Sun-Young Lee, MS, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Washington State University; nina6026@mail.wsu.edu


The project goal was to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness, particularlyE. coli O157:H7 infections, by increasing the number of consumers who routinely use thermometers when cooking small cuts of meat such as hamburger patties, chicken parts and pork chops. The program began August 2001 and ended September, 2005.  The research project was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service National Integrated Food Safety Initiative under Agreement No. 2001-51110-11464.

The project includedseven steps to achieve the goal with seven specific objectives:

1. Determine the availability, accuracy and reliability of thermometers that are suitable for measuring temperatures of small cuts of meat and are currently available to Washington and Idaho consumers.

  • Store surveys were conducted in rural and urban areas in Washington and Idaho of the availability of food thermometers consumers would to use to test temperature of small cuts of meat.

  • Data was collected about dial and digital instant-read thermometers in 138 grocery, department, specially, hardware, and drug/variety stores.  Kitchen shops have the greatest selection of food thermometers.  68% of grocery stores stocked dial gauge; 35% stocked digital (which are the easiest to use and more accurate for small cuts of meat).  Hardware and variety stores are not reliable sources of thermometers.

  • Twenty-one models of food thermometers (8 dial models and 13 digital models) were tested for accuracy and response time.  Both digital and dial gauge instant read thermometers were accurate when tested in a water bath at 160 deg. F.  Some thermometers took as little as 10 seconds to register; others as much as 30 seconds.

  • The results of the store surveys and the accuracy and response time testing are reported in:


  • McCurdy SM, Mayes E, Hillers VN, Kang DH, and Edlefsen MS. "Availability, Accuracy and Response Time of Instant Read Food Thermometers for Consumer Use," Food Protection Trends 2004;24(12)961-968.


2. Test the adequacy of USDA recommendations to cook ground beef to 160F internal temperature, specifically related to recovery of injured cells that may remain infectious.

  • Inactivation of E. coli O157:H7 in inoculated hamburger cooked to an internal temperature of 160F (71.1C) was determined comparing:

    • a double-sided grill,

    • a single-sided grill where the patty was turned every 30 seconds, and

    • a single-sided grill where the patty was turned once.

  • The surviving E. coli cells were enumerated. Double-sided grills and one-sided grills with multi-turnovers are the best ways to cook ground beef patties due to greatest pathogen reduction, most rapid cooking time and smallest temperature range within each patty.

  • The results of the comparison are reported in:


  • Rhee MS, Lee SY,  Hillers VN, McCurdy SM, Kang DH. Evaluation of Consumer-Style Cooking Methods for Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Ground Beef.  J Food Prot. 2003;66:1030-1034.

  • Thermometer cleaning methods for reduction of attached E. coli O157:H7 were compared.  The methods included:

    • Wiping with dry paper towel,

    • Wiping with wet paper towel,

    • Wiping with disinfectant towel,

    • Wiping with alcohol towel,

    • Rinsing with water,

    • Rinsing with warm water, and

    • Rinsing with 70% alcohol.

  • The surviving E. coli cells were enumerated. Washing with warm water followed by wiping with a paper towel is sufficient cleaning to remove E. coli.

  • The results of the cleaning methods comparison are reported in:


  • Lee SY, Hillers VN, McCurdy SM and Kang DH. Comparison of Cleaning Methods for Reduction of Attached Microorganisms from Consumer-Style Thermometers. J of Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology 2004;12:225-233.


3. Identify potentially unrecognized barriers that inhibit consumer use of food thermometers, as well as motivators to encourage thermometer use.

  • Four focus groups were convened (8-11 participants each) to discuss their beliefs, attitudes and willingness to adopt use of a thermometer when cooking thin meats.

  • Participants were provided with brochures on why and how to use a thermometer with thin meat items and cooked small meat items (hamburger, chicken breast or pork chop), using both a dial and a digital food thermometer to assess doneness.  Focus group participants recommended that pictures showing the imperfect relationship between color of ground beef and endpoint temperature should be communicated to consumers.

  • The results of the focus group research are reported in:


  • McCurdy SM, Hillers VN, Cann SE.  Use of Focus
    Groups to Probe Consumer Reaction and Interest in using Food Thermometers when Cooking Small or Thin Meat Items.  Food Protection Trends. 2005


4. Develop a valid, reliable measure of consumers' attitudes and beliefs about thermometer use, utilizing the Transtheoretical Model.

  • A Stages of Change questionnaire was developed to profile consumer attitudes and behaviors regarding the use of thermometers for small cuts of meat.

  • The process of development and validation of the questionnaire is reported in:


  • Takeuchi MT, Hillers VN, McCurdy SM, and Edlefsen M. Development and Validation of a Stages of Change Instrument to Assess Consumers' Readiness to Use a Food Thermometer when Cooking Small Cuts of Meat: An Application of Transtheoretical Model. JADA. February 2006.


5. Develop and pilot test educational interventions by measuring consumers' progression along the Stages of Change continuum.

  • Educational intervention materials: The educational materials including a brochure, a 15-minute video and a set of five recipe cards were developed using the theme, "Now You're Cooking...Using a Food Thermometer.

  • Materials for High School Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers: In addition to brochure, video and recipe cards, posters with cooking temperatures, handouts, 4 50-minute teaching lessons with activities, and students and teacher evaluation materials were developed.

  • Resources:


  • Non-Technical Publications:


  • Edwards ZM, Edlefsen MS and Hillers VN.  Now You're Cooking Using a Food Thermometer Curriculum Kit.  Publication of the Washington State University Cooperative Extension Service, Pullman, WA.

    Samples:


  • The processes of material development are reported in:


  • Takeuchi MT, Edlefsen MS, Edwards ZM, McCurdy SM and Hillers VN. Food Thermometer Educational Materials: "Now You're Cooking - Using a Food Thermometer!" J Nutr Edu Behav. 2005; 37:271-272.

    Edwards ZM, Takeuchi MT, Hillers VN, McCurdy, SM, Edlefsen MS.  Use of Behavioral Change Theories in Development of Materials to promote Food Thermometer Use.  Submitted to Food Protection Trends, 2005.

  • The previously validated questionnaire was pilot-tested with two groups: a random sample of Washington and Idaho residents and a convenience sample of people involved with food safety education and/or training for Washington State University Extension and University of Idaho Extension.

  • The results of the pilot-testing of the questionnaire are reported in:


  • Takeuchi MT, Hillers VN, McCurdy SM, and Edlefsen MS. Consumers' Stages of Change, Attitudes, Behaviors and Knowledge about Thermometer Use: A Comparison between a Group of General Consumers and a Group of People with Food or Nutrition Knowledge. Am. J Health Promotion. In prep.


6. Determine how individuals at different Stages of Change respond to the educational intervention regarding thermometer use.

  • Using the Stages of Change instrument and previously developed educational materials, the effect of the intervention program was evaluated based on changes in readiness of consumers to adopt thermometer use for small cuts of meat.  There was a significant increase in food thermometer use when cooking small cuts of meat and increased ownership of food thermometers.  The percentage of person who used a thermometer on a regular basis increased from 9% (pre-intervention) to 34% (post-intervention).

  • The results of the intervention are reported in:


  • Takeuchi MT, Hillers VN, McCurdy SM, and Edlefsen MS. Educational Intervention Enhances Consumers' Readiness to Adopt Food Thermometer Use when Cooking Small Cuts of Meat: An Application of the Transtheoretical Model. J Food Protection. 2005;68:1874-1883.

  • Using the materials for High School Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers, the effect of the intervention program was evaluated.  After participating in the lessons, students' knowledge about the reasons for using a thermometer and their self-confidence in using thermometers increased.

  • The results of the intervention are reported in:


  • Edwards ZM, Edlefsen MS, Hillers VN and McCurdy SM.  Evaluation of a Teaching Kit for Family and Consumer Science Classrooms: Motivating Students to Use a Food Thermometer with Small Cuts of Meat.  J. of Food Science Education. in press 2005.


7. Disseminate the results from thermometer education intervention and make recommendations for how a community education program should be structured.

  • Spring 2005, we conducted two public education campaigns to promote thermometer use.  Full color rack cards (8.5"x4") were developed.  The rack cards incorporated the most important information about using a food thermometer for small cuts of meat.  40,000 copies were printed for distribution in grocery stores and via extension programs.  The rack cards were also translated into Spanish and Russian for distribution in Washington and Idaho low-income nutrition education programs.

  • Grocery Store Campaign: Rack card displays were placed at meat counters in Top Foods, Haggens, and Albertsons.

  • Newspaper Campaign: Press releases describing the importance of using food thermometers were sent to food editors of newspapers in Washington and Idaho.  The information was printed in 7 newspapers and a radio station did a feature that included information from the press release.


Other publications about the project:

    "You Can't Judge a Burger by It's Color," by Diane Noel in Programs & People, biannual UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences magazine, Winter 2004.

    Takeuchi MT. Use of Transtheoretical Model to Develop an Understanding of Consumer Responses to a Food Safety Intervention involving Use of Food Thermometers. PhD Dissertation. Washington State University. May 2004.

    Edwards ZM.  MS Thesis.  Development and Evaluation of a Thermometer Teaching Kit for Family and Consumer Science Classrooms.  Washington State University.  August 2004.


List of Presentations/Seminars given:

    Lee SY, Rhee MS, Hillers VN, McCurdy SM and Kang DH.  Effect of Grill Cooking Methods on Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Hamburger Patties. IFT Annual Meeting. Chicago IL. July, 2003.

    Hillers VN and McCurdy SM.  Extension Food Safety Update "Now You're Cooking...Using a Food Thermometer," Extension Engaged WSU Satellite 1-hour broadcast, Pullman WA.  October 31, 2003.

    Takeuchi MT, Edlefsen MS, McCurdy SM and Hillers VN.  Use of Stages of Change Behavioral Model to Understand Consumer Behaviors involving Use of Food Thermometers. Poster presented at Institute of Food Technologists international food safety meeting Orlando FL. November 2003.

    Edwards ZM, Takeuchi M, Edlefsen M, Hillers V.  Development of Educational Materials to Motivate Consumers to Use a Food Thermometer when Cooking Small Cuts of Meat.  Poster presented at Institute of Food Technologists international food safety meeting. Orlando FL. November 2003.

    Takeuchi MT.  Educating and Motivating Consumers: What Factors are Most Important for Behavior Change? The Northwest Food Safety Consortium. Food Safety Farm to Table Conference. May 2004.

    McCurdy SM.  Thermometer Availability and Accuracy. The Northwest Food Safety Consortium. Food Safety Farm to Table Conference. May 2004.

    Edwards ZM.  Bringing Thermometer Education to High Schools. The Northwest Food Safety Consortium. Food Safety Farm to Table Conference. May 2004.

    McCurdy SM, Hillers VN, Edlefsen MS and Mayes E.  "Now You're Cooking...Using a Food Thermometer" Video shown at Video Theatre, IFT Annual Meeting. Las Vegas NV.  July 15, 2004.

    Edlefsen MS, Hillers VN, McCurdy SM, Mayes E and Takeuchi MT.  Development of a Survey to Measure Consumer Attitudes, Behavior and Knowledge about Using Thermometers with Small Cuts of Meat.  Poster presented at Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference, July 2004, Salt Lake City, UT  J Nutr Educ Bev 35 (Supp 1):P9, 2004.

    Takeuchi MT, Edlefsen MS, McCurdy SM and Hillers VN. Effect of an Educational Intervention on Consumers' Readiness to Adopt Thermometer Use when Cooking Small Cuts of Meat: An Application of Transtheoretical Model. Poster presented at Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference, July 2004, Salt Lake City, UT  J Nutr Educ Bev 35 (Supp 1):P9, 2004.

    Edwards ZM, Hillers VN, Edlefsen MS, McCurdy SM, Mayes E and Takeuchi MT.  Now You're Cooking..Using a Food Thermometer: A Teaching Kit for Family and Consumer Science Classrooms.  Poster presented at Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference, July 2004, Salt Lake City, UT  J Nutr Educ Bev 35 (Supp 1):P8, 2004.

    McCurdy SM.  Results from the Thermometer Education Project.  Biennial Idaho FCS Extension Educator Inservice.  Moscow, ID.  Sept 22, 2004.

    Edwards ZM and McCurdy SM.  Reducing Risk with Food Thermometers: Strategies for Behavior Change, concurrent session at 2004 National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences Annual Conference.  Nashville, TN.  October 6, 2004.

    Hillers V, McCurdy SM, Takeuchi M, Edlefsen M, and Edwards Z. Application of Behavior Change Models to Education about Food Thermometers.  Technical session at 2005 Insititute of Food Technologists annual meeting.  New Orleans, LA. July 18, 2005.

    McCurdy SM, Hillers V, and Cann S.  Educating Consumers to use Food Thermometers with Thin/Small Meat Items.  Technical session at 2005 International Association of Food Protection annual meeting, Baltimore, MD
    August 17, 2005.

 

 
 

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