POLL: FOOD THERMOMETER USE STILL LOW

DENVER -- The majority of Americans still overlook using instant-read thermometers as one of the primary lines of defense in protecting themselves against foodborne pathogens, according to a new study from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.-how among their shoppers.Today, most retailers sell instant-read thermometers in their stores, usually merchandised near the meat case at a cost of $6

DENVER -- The majority of Americans still overlook using instant-read thermometers as one of the primary lines of defense in protecting themselves against foodborne pathogens, according to a new study from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

-how among their shoppers.

Today, most retailers sell instant-read thermometers in their stores, usually merchandised near the meat case at a cost of $6 to $12.

Conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide last month, and funded by beef processors through the Cattlemen's Beef Board, the national telephone survey of 1002 randomly selected U.S. adults revealed a variety of information about typical consumers' use of instant-read thermometers.

Most notably, the use of instant-read thermometers remains extremely low, although it has increased from 2% in April 1999, when the last poll was taken, to 7% today. Researchers found that part of the problem is that all consumers are not familiar with proper cooking temperatures. Only 8% correctly identified 160 degrees Fahrenheit as the internal temperature to which ground beef should be cooked to make sure it is safe; another 31% think ground beef must be cooked to more than 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of those who use an instant-read thermometer, 37% said they use it "every time" and 50% reported they use it "most of the time," according to the survey.

For those consumers who do not use a thermometer, 64% reported they determine doneness by sight -- when the patty is gray or no longer pink inside and/or when the juices are no longer pink or the juices run clear. However, 11% said they still judge doneness by the outside color of the patty.

According to J.O. Reagan, Ph.D, executive director of research for the NCBA, instant-read thermometers should register the meat's temperature in about 15 seconds and are not designed to stay in the food during cooking. An oven-proof thermometer can be used for roasts and larger cuts and stay in the meat while cooking.

When cooking beef roasts, Reagan suggested consumers check doneness by inserting the stem of the instant-read thermometer about two inches into the thickest part of the meat. The thermometer should not touch bone or the bottom of the pan.

For ground beef patties and steaks, the thermometer be inserted in the side, he said.