Cooking at Home Is Risky Business

Turns out most of us are lacking in basic food safety skills.

Only 43 percent of subjects washed their hands before preparing food, in studies conducted by researchers at University of California, Davis. (Photo: Sean Murphy via Getty Images)

Jul 12, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

Researchers turned the cameras on 200 California residents cooking at home and made some shocking discoveries about people’s lack of food safety skills.

Among the finds: more than half of the home cooks didn’t wash their hands before preparing food, and among those who did, many scrubbed for merely two seconds instead of the recommended 20 seconds.

MORE: Sick: 93 People Contract Salmonella From Mail-Order Hatchery

The studies, produced by researchers at the University of California, Davis, were designed to get a real-life sense of consumers’ food safety habits.

“What this tells us is that people aren’t perfect,” Christine Bruhn, a UC Davis food safety scientist who investigates consumer food handling practices, told MSNBC.

During the study, subjects prepared salads and hamburgers while being videotaped. Unsurprisingly, many of the subjects failed to wash their hands after touching raw meat and more than 75 percent took actions that could transfer bacteria from one surface to another. And each household in the study made an average of 43 moves that could create cross-contamination, a whopping number for just making lunch.

While an impressive 70 percent managed to cook their burgers to the proper temperature (160°F, for future reference), this was mostly by chance, as only 4 percent of the households actually used a thermometer. The lax cooking habits were apparent in subjects’ responses as well: while 84 percent knew they could fall ill from bad burgers, almost 20 percent thought they would get sick only if the burgers were made outside their home.

These poor food practices often lead to foodborne illnesses from pathogens such as norovirus and salmonella, so make sure to wash hands thoroughly, don’t cross-contaminate veggies and raw meats, and don’t forget to wash your produce. Use a meat thermometer for raw meats and refrigerate foods properly.

“It’s really not hard to wash your hands and do these basic precautions,” said Bruhn.

What do you do to make sure your family’s food stays safe? Let us know in the comments.

Show Comments ()

More on TakePart

A Start-up Builds on New Orleans’ Culinary Foundation