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CHECKOFF EDUCATES CONSUMERS ABOUT SAFE COOKING

Centennial, Colo. – In the wake of heavy media coverage about the Topps Meat Company recall of more than 21 million pounds of ground beef, The Beef Checkoff issues management team utilized checkoff funds to conduct a survey to assess consumer attitudes about ground beef safety.

The survey found that consumers demonstrated widespread awareness of E. coli associated with ground beef, but ranked beef well below fish and chicken as a food safety concern. Still, consumers do not know proper internal cooking temperatures for ground beef, and few consumers use instant-read thermometers when cooking it.

“What we've learned from this survey will be used to guide checkoff-funded safety programming throughout 2008,” says Jay O'Brien, a rancher from Amarillo, Texas, and chair of the checkoff's Joint Public Opinion and Issues Management Group. “It's vital to our industry that we as producers provide safe product to the U.S. and abroad. But raising safe beef isn't the only goal – it's teaching consumers how to keep it safe through proper food preparation.”

Responding to such surveys, the checkoff reminds consumers that a meat thermometer can help:

• Prevent foodborne illness;

• Cook and hold food at a safe temperature; and

• Prevent overcooking.

Also, consumers should make sure the thermometer is designed for meat and poultry – not for candy or other foods. Insert the meat thermometer properly:

Ground meat -- place in the thickest area of meat loaf; insert sideways in thin items such as patties.

Red meat, roasts, steaks or chops – insert in the center of the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle.

“Using a meat thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine the ‘doneness' of meat, poultry and egg products,” says O'Brien. “To be safe, beef must be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7.”

So the next time the roast rolls out of the oven, don't use the “finger-dip test” to gauge if it's cooked to its recommended temperature. Get out the thermometer to ensure a safe meal for family and friends.

For other information such as USDA-recommended safe minimum internal temperatures, visit www.bifsco.org or www.beefits whatsfordinner.com.

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