Americans Increasingly Aware of Foodborne Illness, USDA Surveys Say

WASHINGTON - More Americans are now changing their cooking habits in response to warnings about pathogens in undercooked meats, the Agriculture Department said Monday.

After analyzing 10 years of annual food survey results, USDA said that 80 percent of American households now report cooking their homemade burgers until they are brown or well done--up from 76 percent in 1991. USDA also reports a decline in the number of families who cook their burgers medium-rare, down from over 20 percent in 1991 to less than 15 percent in 1996. Two to 5 percent of consumers persistently ignore warnings about undercooked meat and continue to eat their hamburgers rare or pink.

More than 70 percent of respondents reported changing their cooking habits upon learning of meat recalls on television or reading news stories about people becoming ill after eating undercooked hamburger. However, government-sponsored "safe handling" labels on food seem to have little effect on consumers, according to the survey.
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