September 3, 2010

Study Disputes Safety Of Home Cooking

Approximately one out of every seven household kitchens in America would fail a restaurant-style health inspection, according to a study that appears in the September 3 edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The California study, which was launched by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) in spring 2006, involved the use of an online self-assessment questionnaire that was completed by approximately 13,000 adults over a two-year span.

The quiz featured a total of 57 questions regarding food safety and proper preparation techniques, and included questions about flies and rodents in the home, the wearing of jewelry before cooking, and the placement of food in a refrigerator in order to allow the proper circulation of air in the cooling appliance. The responses were then graded, school-style, and according to the MMWR paper, "34% received an A rating, 27% a B, 25% a C, and 14% received a numeric score because they scored lower than 70% on the self-assessment."

"When queried regarding food handling and preparation practices, approximately 27% reported not storing partially cooked foods that would not be used immediately in the refrigerator before final cooking, 28% said they did not remove all jewelry from hands and/or did not keep fingernails trimmed when cooking, and 26% reported that their kitchen shelves and cabinets were not clean and free from dust," the study also noted. "Approximately 36% of respondents said that they did not have a properly working thermometer inside the refrigerator. Approximately 9% reported that they had flies inside the home; 6% reported cockroaches; and 5% reported rodents inside their homes."

According to AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, approximately 98% of all restaurants in the Los Angeles area receive grades of 'A' or 'B' on the health inspections that inspired the quiz used in the LACDPH study, compared to the 61% of those who filled out the Web-based questionnaire. Stobbe notes that the study is believed to be the first of its kind, but adds that researchers admit that the methodology used to assess food safety in private homes was "hardly perfect."


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