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New Research from FDA and FSIS Shed Light on Food Handling Behaviors in the Home

Posted by Chris Bernstein, Director, Food Safety Education, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA in Health and Safety
Nov 15, 2016

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (that’s 48 million people) suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Part of what may be contributing to these illnesses is misunderstanding of where food poisoning can come from. In fact, according to a new national telephone survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 53 percent of consumers think it is “not very common” to get food poisoning because of the way food is prepared in the home. This is not true, and promoting safe food handling in the home is one way CDC, FDA and FSIS are working to reduce the rates of food poisoning nationally.

The survey, conducted periodically by FDA and FSIS since 1988, explores the public’s understanding of food safety and their food handling behaviors at home. These findings show that while consumer understand of food safety is not universal, many are beginning to understand the source of food poisoning and how they can help reduce their risk.

Key Findings


  • Awareness of germs -- Awareness is high for Salmonella (93 percent) and E. coli (89 percent) are high.
  • Food thermometer ownership – Sixty-seven (67 percent) reported owning a food thermometer.
  • Most consumers wash cutting boards after cutting raw meat -- The percent that either wash or use different cutting boards between cutting raw meat/chicken/fish and cutting other foods is around 90 percent.
  • Most consumers refrigerate meat/chicken dishes within two hours of cooking -- The percent to refrigerate these within two hours is 83 percent.
  • Historic data on thermometer usage is trending up
Cook: 1998 2001 2006 2010 2016
a) use thermometer for roasts  36 49 56 57 60
b) use thermometer for hamburgers 7 13 13 15 24
c) use thermometer for chicken parts                16 25 34 37 42

Food Safety Education Is Key


Results in this survey reflect the concerted effort of FSIS, FDA and CDC to educate consumers about proper food handling behaviors and food safety in general. Since the last time the survey was conducted in 2010, the three agencies launched the Food Safe Families campaign. The cross-federal effort is designed to raise awareness of the risks of food poisoning, motivate parents to reduce their family’s risk of food poisoning by regularly practicing safe food handling behaviors in their homes, and drive parents to to check their food safety steps.

Since launch, the effort has generated more than 100 million page views on, $140 million in donated advertising in coordination with the Ad Council, and more than 9 billion impressions of campaign materials.

The Future and Food Safety Research


FSIS and FDA will continue to conduct this national survey periodically to best understand in-home food handling habits of consumers. Its findings help all three federal agencies refine the educational outreach we use to help protect the public from food poisoning from cooking in the home.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety