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Household Food Preparers' Food-Safety Knowledge and Practices Following Widely Publicized Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

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There has been extensive media coverage of the Pacific Northwest outbreak of foodborne illness caused by Escherichia coli O157:H7 in 1993 and continuing smaller incidences of both E. coli and salmonella transmission by food. An increase in consumer awareness and knowledge of microbial food safety was expected as a result. A telephone survey of Oregon food preparers (using a random-digit-dialing household sample) in December 1995 and January 1996 revealed that knowledge about foodborne illness was greater than in previous studies. Of the 100 respondents, 88% named appropriate foods as being at high risk for food poisoning. Salmonella contamination was recognized as a problem in food by 99%, E. coli by 100%, but campylobacter by only 7%. Major foods which have been associated with salmonella were named correctly by 90% and with E. coli by 87%. Although raw or rare meats or fish were rarely eaten or ordered by respondents, hamburgers were frequently requested to be cooked to "medium" doneness. Many said they would thoroughly cook food contaminated with bacteria to make it safe to eat (56% for salmonella and 59% for E. coli) but 40% responded that the foods either couldn't be made safe to eat or that they didn't know of a way. Respondents in general could not identify specific groups of people especially at risk for foodborne illness. Educational efforts should focus on risk groups and ways that consumers can prevent foodborne illness.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Nutrition and Food Management, College of Home Economics and Education, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

Publication date: September 1, 1997

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