Assessing the Usage of Food Thermometers at American University Football Tailgates

Mary Yavelak, Sarah Cope, Jill Hochstein, Benjamin Chapman Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 8-17, Jan 2018 Volume 38, Issue 1: Pages 8–17

Temporary food production settings such as festivals, community gatherings and tailgates often have little infrastructure for safe food handling practices. Many outdoor temporary events have been linked to foodborne illness outbreaks, but little is known about safe food handling practices specifically in tailgate settings. This research was designed to evaluate current food thermometer usage at university football tailgates, using a mixed-methods approach of observation and interview. Additional aims were to engage with participants around safe food handling and distribute food safety materials and evaluate this approach as an intervention. Trained data collectors from five U.S. universities collected baseline thermometer usage data, engaged participants with safe food handling messages, and returned to collect thermometer usage data. Just 33% of tailgaters reported using a food thermometer (n = 523). Follow-up observations revealed 56% of participants exhibited a change in behavior following the intervention (n = 39). The three most reported foods likely to be assessed with a thermometer were beef, pork, and chicken. Results provide insight on the need for food safety training and specific education for tailgaters. Targeting education efforts to this group can aid in reducing the risk of foodborne illness at temporary food settings.

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