Healthbeat: New research reveals a quarter of American consumers may not know how to safely cook frozen foods

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The pandemic has made protecting our family from illness an even greater focus. But new research reveals mistakes some of us are making in the kitchen may be putting our loved ones at risk.

Those mistakes have to do with frozen foods which have become as popular as ever during the pandemic but if you’re not careful, they could make you and your family sick.

When you want a meal and you want to make it fast, frozen food is hands down the food of choice.

“In this day and age, a lot of people are on the go, different things, you know especially with children. You’ve got to run here, you’ve got to run there so you’ve got to get something quick,” Sarah Derhammer, a shopper in Kingston Township told Eyewitness News.

Not only quick, but frozen foods won’t grow foodborne illness bacteria while they’re frozen. Yet new USDA research shows about a quarter of study participants become vulnerable when it’s time to prepare the frozen food item.

Eyewitness News asked a USDA food safety expert ,”What are some of us doing wrong as we’re stocking up on our frozen foods?” Meredith Carothers, USDA food safety expert, replied, “So a lot of people don’t realize that some frozen foods aren’t fully cooked and ready to eat. There are products that are frozen that are still considered raw even though they may look cooked with a breading or some grill marks or something like that.”

Not cooking that frozen entrée long enough can lead to a foodborne illness which can be downright nasty, if not dangerous.

“Most common symptoms of foodborne illness are going to be nausea, vomiting, going to the bathroom quite a lot,” Carothers said.

Even hospitalization and in extreme cases, death. Whether the food is frozen or fresh, Carothers says what you need to do to avoid foodborne illness is follow the four steps to food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill.

“So making sure you’re starting with clean hands and washing your hands throughout meal preparation, keeping any raw foods separate from cooked or ready to eat foods, cooking those products to the safe internal temperature to kill all those harmful foodborne illness bacteria and then refrigerating in a prompt amount of time after that product has been cooked and you have any leftovers.”

For more food safety tips and information, Click Here or Call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), which is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

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