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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Michigan are joining forces to promote food thermometer usage to prevent foodborne illness when preparing meat and poultry, with an innovative campaign called "Is it DONE yet?"
Michigan State University's National Food Safety & Toxicology Center, the Department of Food Science, and Human Nutrition and its Extension service are partnering with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on a project to increase consumers' use of food thermometers, thereby preventing dangerous foodborne illnesses.
The results of the program will help shape FSIS' national approach to future consumer food safety promotions as well as thermometer usage.
The USDA's UnderSecretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elsa Murano, kicked off the "Is it DONE yet?" campaign yesterday at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.
"'Is It Done Yet?' is a consumer-government partnership," said Dr. Murano. "USDA is working aggressively to continue progress in preventing illness and protecting public health. Consumer awareness of basic food safety principles -- especially using a food thermometer for checking meat, poultry, and seafood as it cooks -- can reduce the number of foodborne illnesses significantly."
The use of a food thermometer is essential to ensure that meat and poultry have been cooked sufficiently to eliminate harmful pathogens. According to FSIS, in the case of hamburgers, even if they're brown in the middle, one in four burgers is still not safely "done yet." A food thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the hamburger can indicate if the patty has reached the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimal temperature for killing the dangerous E. coli pathogen.
Using a food thermometer to check when meat or poultry is done also ensures proper cooking lengths to provide peak taste and prevent overcooking.
For this campaign, USDA created a special Web site, IsItDoneYet.gov, with information and food safety guidelines for the use of food thermometers. FSIS' Food Safety Mobile, a 35-foot recreational vehicle decorated with food safety characters and equipped to spread the message of food safety, will be featured at campaign stops in Kent, Ingham, and Washtenaw counties in Michigan from Aug. 2 through Aug. 15. Interactive games, cooking demonstrations, and food safety information will also be featured.