CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' Markets, operator of 26 supermarkets in Arizona, has added on-pack cooking instructions to all packages of ground beef.
As reported in the Aug. 17 issue of SN, Wegman's Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., announced earlier this month through the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, that it had created labels and meat case signs reminding consumers to make sure they cook ground beef to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We saw what Wegman's was doing and wanted to become the first retailer in this state to do the same," said Rich Dalton, a spokesman for Bashas', based here.
The chain -- which operates 13 Food City stores in the greater Phoenix area, five upscale AJ's Fine Foods, four Bashas' Mercado units (three along the U.S.-Mexico border) and four Megafoods Stores outlets -- was able to launch the program quickly, thanks to an in-house art department and print shop.
"Our labels look similar to the ones made for Wegman's," said Dalton. "They include all the critical information our shoppers need, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
To help make it easier for customers to use safe cooking practices, Bashas' soon will begin merchandising meat thermometers and onetime-use temperature sensors next to the self-serve meat cases. Until now, these items had been sold in the aisle that contains other cooking utensils, such as skewers and collanders. Spanish language labels for use in stores with Hispanic shoppers are being considered.
"The proper cooking of ground beef has been a prevalent topic in recent years," said Dick Gosselin, vice president of meat operations. "We hope this label will assure our customers that cooking ground beef to 160 degrees Fahrenheit guarantees that harmful bacteria are eliminated."
The label, which went on ground beef packages the week of Aug. 10, has red lettering on a white background, telling consumers: "Cook To 160F. Cooking ground beef to 160F eliminates harmful bacteria which could cause serious or fatal illness."
A likeness of a meat thermometer displays the "160F" temperature beside additional safety reminders: "Put cooked beef on a clean plate" and "Use a thermometer."
Officials at Bashas' stores have decided not to post any more case signs, according to Dalton. "The most important thing is having labels on the meat [package], so right before somebody cooks it, they know the proper instructions," he said.