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    Awareness of Safe Cooking Temps Improving

    Retailers are in a unique position to provide information.

    The number of consumers who know the correct cooking temperature for ground beef is showing a small improvement, according to a national survey funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, and retailers are in a unique position to provide customers with essential information needed to properly and safely cook beef at the point of purchase.

    Efforts by the beef industry and retail partners to educate consumers over the past several years is paying dividends, with more people today claiming awareness of the proper cooking temperature for ground beef (18 percent) vs. in 2007 (13 percent). However, the survey shows the vast majority of consumers could benefit from a refresher on cooking safe beef.

    “We’re pleased with the progress, but it shows there is still work to be done, “sais Helen Wiese, cow/calf producer from Manning, Iowa, and chair of the checkoff’s Retail Committee. “Together with our retail partners, there is great opportunity to educate consumers on how beef can stay safe at home through proper cooking techniques, like using an instant-read thermometer.”

    With food safety in the news, now is a good time to introduce or expand in-store food preparation and safe handling programs, added Rick McCarty, VP of issue analysis and strategy for the Centennial, Colo.-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which contracts to manage consumer research for the Beef Checkoff Program.

    “Traditionally, consumers demonstrate a heightened awareness of proper handling techniques following a food recall or when food safety is covered in the news,” noted McCarty. “Given the current food safety climate, now is a prime time to educate consumers at the meat case about ways to handle and prepare their beef in not only the tastiest, but also the safest way.”

    Retailers are in a unique position to provide customers with essential information needed to properly and safely cook beef at the point of purchase. Consumer awareness of proper cooking techniques is improving, but the majority of consumers could benefit from conversations with meat case employees and signage reinforcing safe cooking methods.

    Resources Available to Retailers

    To this end, the Beef Checkoff Program created "Safe and Savory at 160°F," a consumer education campaign that arms retailers with the right tools and the right message to empower their customers with proper cooking temperatures for ground beef.

    Ground beef products, including hamburgers, should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160° F, as measured by an instant-read meat thermometer. This ensures the beef is not over- or undercooked and kills any harmful bacteria that may be present. Introduced in 2008, the integrated education effort features posters, brochures, online and social media and a website to drive home the message that beef should be cooked with a meat thermometer to 160° F for optimal flavor and safety.

    Hannaford Supermarkets, a retailer with more than 170 store locations in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, recently featured Safe and Savory information in an ad in the July/August 2010 issue of its magazine, Fresh. The ad's focus was to educate consumers on cooking ground beef to 160° F, including tips on preparation, cooking and storing leftovers. The ad also informed consumers of the correct minimum internal temperatures for ground beef (160° F) and beef roasts and steaks (145° F). Fresh has a circulation of 275,000 and is free to Hannaford customers with purchases over $25.

    "It is important for us to provide food safety tips to help our customers prepare, cook and store food properly," said Peter Forester, manager of meat & seafood at Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford, a banner of the Delhaize Group. "We want our customers to be able to safely enjoy delicious beef.”

    The checkoff-funded survey was conducted July 8 through July 12, 2010. The national survey of 933 American adult beef eaters had a margin of error of +/-3.3 percent and was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.

    For more information, visit http://beefretail.org/retailfoodsafety.aspx.

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