On Behalf of the Cook It Safe Taskforce Date: 9/6/11
There is a particular microwaveable food product that I’ve been eating since I was in high school—it’s a comfort food of sorts for me. I had the preparation down to an art. Pop it in the microwave, punch in the time, spin on my heel and get a plate, knife, fork, and drink just in time for the delicious meal to be ready. Beyond those first initial preparations, I didn’t even glance at the package to read the directions. I knew this—this was my meal. Imagine my surprise when, after a hiatus of about a year, I fell back into my old routine to prepare this meal, and it was not cooked properly! You would think this would have prompted me to check the package, but no. I continued to prepare this food the old way, despite the quality suffering, for a few months. When I did finally check the package instructions, I realized they had changed. I learned firsthand how important it is to read and follow all cooking instructions on the package every single time and to fully cook convenience foods to prevent foodborne illnesses.
It seems I’m not alone in my past delinquencies reading and following the packaging cooking instructions. According to the IFIC Foundation 2011 Food & Health Survey, only 61% of Americans read and follow all of the cooking instructions on pre-packaged food, and only half (51%) of Americans check the meal package prior to purchasing to determine how it should cooked – in a microwave or conventional oven. There are a number of reasons why it’s important to check the appropriate cooking method and to read and follow all of the package cooking instructions:
• It’s inconvenient to get home and realize that the food cannot be prepared in the manner in which you were planning to do so;
• Products change and so can the preparation directions, and you won’t know unless you read them;
• The quality of your food can be affected if you do not follow the directions, and most importantly
• Not reading and following the directions of your pre-packaged food can greatly affect the safety of your food putting you and your loved ones at increased risk for foodborne illness!
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 6 Americans will suffer from foodborne illness each year. Of these people, about 128,000 will be hospitalized. Sadly, about 3,000 of these Americans will die. Luckily for me, my actions resulted in a quality issue rather than a safety issue; however, my error could have easily resulted in me getting sick—or worse.
I always wear a seat belt because it’s a safety precaution. I now read and follow the package cooking directions for the same reason. I’m glad I didn’t have to learn the hard way, and I hope you will join me in taking the time to read and follow the directions every time.
For more information on food safety, please visit:
• Cook it Safe Public Service Announcements
• Microwave Cooking Video featuring Dr. Sue Snider