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Video study finds risky food-safety behavior more common than thought
Date:6/8/2010

How safe is the food we get from restaurants, cafeterias and other food-service providers? A new study from North Carolina State University -- the first study to place video cameras in commercial kitchens to see how precisely food handlers followed food-safety guidelines -- discovered that risky practices happen more often than previously thought.

"Meals prepared outside the home have been implicated in up to 70 percent of food poisoning outbreaks, making them a vital focus area for food safety professionals," says Dr. Ben Chapman, assistant professor and food safety specialist in the department of family and consumer sciences at NC State and lead author of the paper. "We set out to see how closely food handlers were complying with food safety guidance, so that we can determine how effective training efforts are."

In order to get firsthand data on these food-safety practices, researchers placed small video cameras in unobtrusive spots around eight food-service kitchens that volunteered to participate in the study. There were as many as eight cameras in each kitchen, which recorded directly to computer files and were later reviewed by Chapman and others. What they found demonstrates the need for new food safety-focused messages and methods targeting food handlers.

"We found a lot more risky practices in some areas than we expected," Chapman says. For example, most previous studies relied on inspection results and self-reporting by food handlers to estimate instances of "cross-contamination" and found that cross-contamination was relatively infrequent. But Chapman's study found approximately one cross-contamination event per food handler per hour. In other words, the average kitchen worker committed eight cross-contamination errors, which have the potential to lead to illnesses, in the course of the typical eight-hour shift.

Cross-contamination occurs when pathogens, such as Salmonella, are transferred from a raw or contaminat
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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

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