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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #367820

Research Project: Bacterial Pathogens in Regulated Foods and Processing Technologies for Their Elimination

Location: Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research

Title: Utiization of quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the impacts of a pilot media campaign targeting safe cooking techniques and proper thermometer use

item COPE, SARAH - North Carolina State University
item Porto-Fett, Anna
item Luchansky, John
item HOCHSTEIN, JILL - University Of Nebraska
item CHAPMAN, BENJAMIN - North Carolina State University

Submitted to: Food Protection Trends
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2020
Publication Date: 9/1/2020
Citation: Cope, S.J., Porto Fett, A.C., Luchansky, J.B., Hochstein, J., Chapman, B. 2020. Utiization of quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the impacts of a pilot media campaign targeting safe cooking techniques and proper thermometer use. Food Protection Trends. 40:332-348.

Interpretive Summary: Food safety related messages are most effective when meaningful to the intended audience, accurate in information, delivered repeatedly, and distributed at appropriate times. As one example, more effective campaign methods targeting food safety practices are needed to communicate the importance of digital food thermometer use to determine doneness and safety of beef hamburger patties to large populations. Although the body of literature in this area is small, social marketing campaigns have improved food safety behaviors temporarily. Give the absence of published work in the literature on how to construct a social media campaign specifically targeting food safety behaviors, we undertook the challenge to develop a message for the masses related to Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and beef. The focus of this media campaign was to develop and deliver information on proper cooking and correct use of a thermometer for ground beef burgers. Over a 14-week period, the “160degreeC is Good” campaign was delivered via radio, movie theater, and digital advertisements to the over 210,000 inhabitants of the greater metropolitan area of Fayetteville, NC. The content and the effectiveness of this campaign were evaluated via a pre- and post-campaign random-dial phone interview of some 300 individuals and by the post-campaign conduct of six focus groups (44 participants). Although the message per see did not have a major impact on food thermometer use behaviors, there was evidence to suggest that those who were able to recall this advertising did have increased awareness of the importance and need to use a food thermometer for safety purposes. Therefore, response-efficacy surrounding food thermometer use was increased. These data validated that the campaign influenced food safety behaviors, but additional efforts can be made to improve both the cosmetic component and content of the message. This study also provides a ground truthed road map that others may use to develop and deliver specific food-safety related messaging for the masses.

Technical Abstract: In-depth information was gathered from survey participants on impacted perceptions, food safety attitudes, and self-reported behavioral changes in response to the pilot of a national food safety messaging campaign ( The campaign focused on safe handling of grilled ground beef, and specifically on the use of a thermometer to measure the internal cooking temperature of burgers, to reduce levels of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). The campaign, delivered over a 14-week period through radio, movie theater, and digital advertisements, resulted in ca. 2.2 million impressions in the target community, that being a city of some 210,000 people in the southeast portion of the U.S. A random-dial telephone survey, administered both prior to (n=300) and after (n=305) the messaging campaign, focused on perceptions of beef food safety, thermometer usage, and beef patty handling practices. Following the campaign, six, one-hour focus groups (6-11 participants per group, 44 total participants) were held to measure effectiveness and obtain feedback on the campaign. Of 305 post-campaign respondents interviewed by phone, ca. 44% (n=134) recalled hearing a beef safety-related advertisement, whereas ca. 24% (72) reported hearing the "160 is good" message. Additionally, 14% (n=44) of pre-campaign respondents compared with 16% (n=50) of post-campaign respondents reported using a food thermometer when cooking burgers to determine when burgers are done. Additional findings from the six focus groups were mixed, with some participants providing positive feedback such as on the delivery of an animated movie theatre pre-roll to a captive audience, while other participants expressed skepticism over the use of a radio spot to drive consumers to a website to learn more about food safety. Regardless, this research increased overall awareness of beef safety among the target audience and generated a roadmap for developing and delivering an effective food safety message for the masses.