Food Thermometer Campaign

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The United States Department of Agriculture has launched a new food safety education campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to urge people to use a food thermometer when cooking meat, chicken, or egg products.

The campaign is called It's Safe to Bite When the Temperature is Right.

Several companies that operate food stores in the United States are launching similar food safety campaigns.

Millions of people get sick every year from harmful bacteria in the food they eat. Many people do not link their health problems to bacteria from food. They believe they become sick for other reasons.

American officials say studies show there are more than five times the number of harmful bacteria in food than were known to exist sixty years ago. They say people can become sick right after eating food that has harmful bacteria. People also can become sick up to six weeks after eating the food.

Getting sick from bacteria in food can cause serious health problems for some people. Those most at risk are young children, pregnant women, old people and people with serious health problems.

Food thermometers measure the exact temperature of the food being cooked. They help guarantee that food is cooked to a safe temperature. Thermometers also can prevent food from being cooked too long and becoming too dry.

Catherine Wotecki is an official with the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service. She says using a thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a temperature high enough to destroy harmful bacteria.

Mizz Wotecki says the color of a food should not be used as evidence of a safely cooked product. For example, studies have shown that one of every four hamburgers turns brown before it is cooked safely. She says the color of meat or chicken can fool even the most experienced cook.

However, less than half of all American families own a food thermometer. And only a small percentage of them use the device often when cooking small foods like hamburgers or chicken breasts.

The Agriculture Department says most food thermometers are not costly. It says every family should have one.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English