FDA conducted a phone survey of consumers to gain an understanding of food safety knowledge and attitudes. Phone surveys can be sketchy, so it is always important to review results with some skepticism. Here are a few of the results that are interesting:
- While the majority people owned a thermometer, not many people actually used them, especially on products where thermometer use would be most helpful - when cooking hamburgers (only 10%) and cooking chicken (19%).
- Not everyone washes their hands - 15% surveyed don't when handling raw meats and 25% don't wash their hands before preparing food.
- But it is interesting that about half the people think that they are more likely to get foodborne illness when eating out rather than in the home.
Food Safety Survey Shows Consumer Knowledge Up, Still Room to Grow
For nearly three decades the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has conducted annual Food Safety Surveys to gauge and track the public’s understanding of proper food safety handling techniques. Between October 6, 2015 and January 17, 2016, the FDA surveyed 4,169 Americans ages 18 and older to learn more about consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge of food safety. Survey results help inform the FDA’s efforts to improve consumer food safety behaviors through targeted education outreach.
The survey questions are designed to measure trends in consumer food safety practices, such as hand and cutting board washing; preparing and consuming potentially risky foods; and using food thermometers. In addition to informing the FDA’s food safety education efforts, the results are used by the Healthy People 2020 initiative to track consumer food safety knowledge and actions.
- Food thermometer ownership rates have remained constant but usage has slightly increased – In 2016, 67% of respondents reported owning a food thermometer. Reported usage has increased for roasts, chicken parts, and hamburgers between 2006 and 2016. In 2016, 38% report that they always use a meat thermometer for roasts, compared to 19% for chicken parts, and 10% for hamburgers.
- After increasing between 2006 and 2010, hand washing rates have remained constant or decreased between 2010 and 2016 – We asked about hand washing at four specific times: before preparing food, after handling raw meat or poultry, after handling raw fish, and after cracking raw eggs. In all years consumers are more likely to report washing hands with soap after touching raw meat or raw fish, than before preparing food, or after cracking raw eggs. The percent who report washing with soap after touching raw meat or raw fish has remained constant since 2010 and at 85%. There was a slight decrease in the percent who report washing with soap all of the time before preparing food from 78% in 2010 to 75% in 2016. Similarly, there has been a decline in the percent who report washing with soap after cracking raw eggs from 48% in 2010 to 43% in 2016.
- Most consumers do not wash their hands after using handheld phones or tablets in the kitchen. - About half of consumers use devices such as smartphones or tablets while preparing food, but only about a third of those report washing their hands with soap after touching the device while preparing food. This is a new finding and points to the need for additional research to better understand how technology is used in the kitchen. As Americans start preparing meals for the holiday season, the FDA and USDA offer several resources to help all consumers in ensuring that their special meals are prepared and enjoyed safely.
For additional information:
2016 Food Safety Survey Report
The Food Safety Survey is a periodic national telephone survey of adults (18 years and older) in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
FDA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been commissioning the survey since 1988. The survey is intended to help FDA and USDA make informed regulatory, education, and other decisions by providing a better understanding of consumer knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to food safety.
The 2016 survey was the seventh iteration of the survey. It was the first time that the survey sampled cell phone users in addition to users of landline phones. This change was instituted to ensure that we could reach respondents who only have cell phones. The survey consisted of interviews with 4,169 participants between October 2015 and January 2016. An overview of the survey methodology is included at the end of the document.
Below are selected key findings as well as the questions and responses from the survey. Frequencies were weighted to account for sampling design (overlapping landline and cell phone dual-frame), probability of selection in the landline sample (number of landline telephone numbers and number of adults in a household), and key demographics (age, education, gender, and race/ethnicity).
Selected Key Findings
- Consumers are somewhat concerned about getting a foodborne illnesses from how they prepare food, but think people are more likely to get a foodborne illness from food prepared at a restaurant compared to food prepared at home -- Most respondents, 53%, thought that it was “Not very common” to get food poisoning because of the way food is prepared at home. Slightly over half (54%) thought that it is “more common” to get food poisoning from restaurants compared to food prepared at home.
- Consumers are more concerned about raw chicken and raw beef being contaminated than raw vegetables -- The percent of respondents who thought that raw chicken (66%) and raw beef (41%) were “very likely” to have germs was higher than the 6% who thought the same of raw vegetables.
- Awareness of germs -- Awareness is high for Salmonella (93%) and E. coli (89%), and is low for Campylobacter (16%).
- Hand washing -- Consumers are more likely to wash hands with soap after touching raw meat (85%) or raw fish (85%), than before preparing food (75% use soap all the time), or after cracking raw eggs (43%).
- Food thermometer ownership and use – Sixty seven (67%) of respondents reported owning a food thermometer. Thirty-eight percent (38%) always use a food thermometer for roasts, compared to 19% for chicken parts, 6% for baked egg dishes, and 10% for hamburgers.
- 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%.
- Most consumers refrigerate meat/chicken dishes within two hours of cooking -- The percent to refrigerate these within two hours is 83%.
- Most consumers wash chicken parts or whole chickens before cooking them – Sixty-seven percent (67%) said that they always washed raw chicken parts before cooking them and 68% said they always washed whole chicken or turkeys before cooking them. The most common method is by rinsing them with water (94% used this method for chicken parts and 90% for whole chickens or turkeys). (This practice is not recommended by food safety experts since washing will not destroy pathogens and may increase the risk of contaminating other foods and surfaces.)
- Forty-eight percent (48%) of consumers use devices such as smartphones or tablets while preparing food – Of those, only 35% wash their hands with soap after touching the device while preparing food.
- Sixty-five percent (65%) of respondents had not heard of mechanically tenderized beef -- Forty-four percent (44%) of respondents said they were not at all likely to buy it if they saw it in the store. Labels were required starting in May 2016.