Frank Yiannas writes in this edited version:
Over the past few years, in the U.S., we’ve seen reports by public health officials of continued outbreaks related to undercooked ground beef patties and ground turkey.
More recently, we’re reading about a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella due to undercooked poultry.
This really comes as no surprise, as published scientific surveys have repeatedly shown that a small percentage of consumers will actually undercook ground meat and poultry when they prepare it at home.
While the presence of pathogens such as Salmonella in raw ground meat and raw poultry is considered undesirable, we all know it’s unavoidable given the current state of the science and industry’s best practices as used all over the world.
Therefore, when such outbreaks occur, there are some food safety professionals in industry, academia, and regulatory that state that consumers “just need to cook it” – since the consumer is the final safety net. And while this is true – and I’m certainly an advocate for a “shared responsibility for food safety” with consumers having to do their part – as I think about the continued outbreaks associated with ground meat and poultry products, I can’t help but wonder if the “just cook it” mindset is operating on an old paradigm.
To be successful in today’s modern food system, a new paradigm for raw ground beef and raw poultry is starting to emerge. I call it the “Strategic Control Point paradigm.”
We must realize that some risk is best controlled very early in the food production chain and that not all critical control points (CCP) are equal.
For example, if we truly want to reduce the incidence of Salmonella linked to undercooked ground meat and poultry products in the population, as a society, let’s focus on developing very effective Strategic Control Points (SCP). If producers can continue (as they’ve already done) to reduce rates of contamination of Salmonella early in the food production chain through a SCP (and consumers accept the intervention techniques used), I am quite confident that the number of human cases of Salmonella will dramatically drop. But if we rely on the final cook, whether it be in a restaurant or in a home, our risk reduction benefits will be less noticeable.