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Special from the USDA —
WASHINGTON— New research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that consumers may not know how to safely cook frozen foods, which can put families at risk of getting foodborne illness in their homes.
“As consumers are preparing more meals at home, it is important that these cooks are practicing food safety in their kitchens” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety. “Our research shows that home cooks should read product labels to understand how to properly prepare an item, and not rely solely on appearance.”
Consumers may not know that some frozen foods are not fully cooked or ready to eat, especially if they have browned breading, grill marks or other signs that normally show that a product has been cooked. In a recent USDA study, 22 percent of participants said a not-ready-to-eat frozen chicken entrée was either cooked, partially cooked, or they weren’t sure that the product was in fact raw.
Frozen foods are convenient for busy families, because of how quickly they can be prepared. Frozen food products are also a great option because children can easily prepare frozen meals on their own. It is especially important for children to know how to practice the necessary food safety steps needed to prepare frozen meals to avoid foodborne illness, and to help them do so, parents must first understand if products are raw or ready-to-eat.
“Although some frozen products may look cooked, it is important to follow the same food safety guidelines as you would if you were cooking a fresh, raw product,” says Dr. Brashears. “Wash your hands before food preparation and after handling raw frozen products, and use a food thermometer to make sure your frozen meals reach a safe internal temperature.”
Among national survey respondents who had experience with foodborne illnesses, 61 percent reported they did not make changes to how they handled food at home after being sick, which is concerning when you consider that more than half of survey respondents reported that someone in their home was considered at-risk for foodborne illness. These individuals — children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems — are unable to fight infection as effectively as others, so they can be susceptible to longer illness, hospitalization and even death from foodborne illness.