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Evaluating food safety risk messages in popular cookbooks

Katrina Levine (Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)
Ashley Chaifetz (Office of Policy Support, US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Alexandria, Virginia, USA)
Benjamin Chapman (Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




Medeiros et al. (2001) estimate 3.5 million cases of foodborne illness in the USA annually are associated with inadequate cooking of animal foods or cross-contamination from these foods. Past research shows home food handling practices can be risk factors for foodborne illness. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the communication of food safety guidance, specifically safe endpoint temperatures and cross-contamination risk reduction practices, in popular cookbook recipes.


Recipes containing raw animal ingredients in 29 popular cookbooks were evaluated through content analysis for messages related to safe endpoint temperature recommendations and reducing cross-contamination risks.


Of 1,749 recipes meeting study criteria of cooking raw animal ingredients, 1,497 contained a raw animal that could effectively be measured with a digital thermometer. Only 123 (8.2 percent) of these recipes included an endpoint temperature, of which 89 (72.3 percent) gave a correct temperature. Neutral and positive food safety behavior messages were provided in just 7.2 percent (n=126) and 5.1 percent (n=90) of recipes, respectively. When endpoint temperatures were not included, authors often provided subjective and risky recommendations.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is needed on the effect of these results on consumer behavior and to develop interventions for writing recipes with better food safety guidance.

Practical implications

Including correct food safety guidance in cookbooks may increase the potential of reducing the risk of foodborne illness.


Popular cookbooks are an underutilized avenue for communicating safe food handling practices and currently cookbook authors are risk amplifiers.



Chapman and Levine were supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2012-68003-30155 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Chaifetz received no financial support from this grant. The contents of this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of the US Department of Agriculture or the United States Government.


Levine, K., Chaifetz, A. and Chapman, B. (2017), "Evaluating food safety risk messages in popular cookbooks", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 5, pp. 1116-1129.



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