by Marion Nestle
Jul 11 2012

The Ad Council on food safety: buy a meat thermometer

Yesterday’s international edition of USA Today (I picked it up at Heathrow) carried a full-page ad from the Ad Council, which donates its services to worthy causes every now and then.  This one, entirely in grey and white, displays logos from the Ad Council, USDA, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the parent agency of FDA.

In inch-high letters, all caps: DO YOU WANT THAT SAFE OR MEDIUM-SAFE?


The ad also displays the Cook, Clean, Chill, Separate logo and the admonition to “Keep your family safer from food poisoning.  Check your steps at”

Mind you, I’m highly in favor of following food safety procedures at home.

But most food safety problems are not due to the failure of home cooks to use thermometers.

They are caused by failures to observe food safety procedures during commercial production and preparation.

Shouldn’t meat and poultry be safe when you buy it in the supermarket?

This ad implies that the principal responsibility for food safety lies with the end user—you.

If you get sick it’s your fault because you didn’t use a meat thermometer?

USDA and DHHS:  how about getting the Ad Council to encourage meat and poultry producers to make sure their products are safe in the first place.

  • Joe

    It seems that the Ad Council is echoing the sentiments of the Centers for Disease Control which says that one of the most common risk factors for food born illness is poor personal hygiene (by the end user). Another of those risk factors is the failure to cook foods to the proper temperature (thus the admonition to use a thermometer when cooking potentially hazardous foods)

  • Whose responsibility should my health be?

  • Mario

    While it is true some bacteria may not be killed by cooking to the right temperature and some food can be contaminated prior to arriving in the consumers home, that doesn’t mean it is appropriate to NOT follow proper cooking procuedures when preparing foods at home. The consumer is responsible for the preparation of their food. What would your reaction be if you went to a restaurant and got sick after consuming a meat or poultry product? My guess is you would blame the kitchen staff and never go back to that restaurant.

  • We can’t continue to blame the consumer for all problems related to food, while giving those who profit from the food a free ride.

    It’s no different than the controversy over soda cup sizes. This is again a case where people blame the consumer for consuming too much soda, without making any effort to counter the deliberate corporate efforts to get people to drink as much soda as possible.

    Yes, people need to use care…but corporations need to use care, too. Putting all blame on the consumers might be handy for the corporate interests, but isn’t a real solution to existing food safety and food health issues.

    Think on that the next time you have a peanut butter sandwich.

  • I completely agree that the consumer is not the place to start. Food production is highly mechanized and as such can introduce many contaminants in to the process flow.

    Whole industries like the metal detection industry started from this very need, to protect the consumer. Companies like Goring Kerr ( founded the industry and worked to protect consumers.

    Keep the pressure on the production of food and not the consumer!

  • That message implies that you are reckless if you enjoy your steaks medium rare or the occassional sunny side up egg. Or softcheeses for that matter. Where do we draw the line between tasteless and unexciting food and the worry that the next juicy steak might be our last?

  • Brilliant, and I agree. I wish though you had led with your last sentence. When sharing this article only the title gets displayed which can be misleading. Now when we write we only get 6 seconds to grab their attention. Don’t bury your informed, well stated and important conclusion.

  • Mario

    I think it is ignorant to think that these food companies don’t care about the safety of the foods they sell to consumers. Food manufacturers are smart enough to know that consumer trust and social licensing lies greatly in the safety of their products.

    However, there always has been and there always will be a risk in consuming any food, and I don’t believe that risk will ever be zero. If you want to increase your risk of food borne illness, feel free not to cook your meat and poultry products to the correct temperature, just don’t go blaming someone else for your stupidity.

  • By checking the temperature, the freshness of the food can be checked,