The Partnership for Food Safety Education was formed not long after an event that many professionals in food safety will remember well – the outbreak at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in the western U.S. that led to the deaths of four children and serious illness for many many more. Although that outbreak stemmed from a restaurant, in reaction to the event was considerable thought given to the need to invest in increasing awareness and modifying the behavior of consumers, broadly, related to the safe handling and preparation of food at home.
A report, “Putting the Food Handling Issue on the Table: the Pressing Need for Food Safety Education”, made the case for cooperation in consumer food safety education. PFSE was formed soon after when federal government agencies, industry, and consumer groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding and pledged to work together to develop the first science-based, consumer education program in food safety. This program, Fight BAC!®, and its four messages of Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill, are the foundation for consumer education in safe food handling in the United States.
Having worked for several years to identify creative and effective ways PFSE might engage individual companies in the food, beverage and consumer products industries, I offer that today there is great potential for consumer educators and the food industry to move forward together in some important areas. In companies where these three things are present we have perhaps the greatest possibilities for working together to affect consumer behavior:
1) Your company is interested in being a part of efforts to put consumer safe food handling in the context of the chain of prevention in food safety.
In your efforts to provide high quality, healthy food products to your customers, your company takes its food safety responsibility – from farm to fork -- very seriously.
You put considerable resources into the review and development of science-based practices all along the supply chain. These investments are essential to your commitment to quality in the products you make and deliver to your customers. Don’t let your commitment stop there. Consumers will appreciate when you show you care about their safety and health in handling and consuming your products at home.
PFSE and several large food companies recently collaborated on a project that put consumer handling in the context of the chain of prevention in food safety. The resulting campaign - The Story of Your Dinner – is something we intend to build on in 2017. (storyofyourdinner.org)
2) You see the potential in leveraging the Partnership’s network of educators with your marketing and communications assets, not just to reach numbers of consumers, but to hone in on specific behaviors that can contribute to reductions in foodborne illnesses.
This network of health and food safety educators and researchers has deep expertise in developing and evaluating consumer interventions. The potential is in being part of efforts to make consumer food safety education more effective, and better tailored to affect behavior change in ways that demonstrably lower risk for the most vulnerable.
3) You are interested in extending your company’s stated values around food quality and safety to consumer education.
This value is present in companies that understand that their responsibility to their customers doesn’t end at the point of sale.
An effective investment in food safety should include consumer education for the greatest impact on public health.
In 2017 we have many opportunities to work together on consumer food safety education as a shared core value. We have a terrific opportunity to consider the possibilities of this as we come together at the conference Advancing Food Safety Through Behavior Change this month (January 26-27) in Washington, DC. I hope you will consider taking part in these conversations. cfsec2017.fightbac.org for more information.
The event is supported by a number of members from The Consumer Goods Forum and its Global Food Safety Initiative, including Cargill, Ecolab, General Mills, Sealed Air, The Hershey Company, Walmart and 3M. Such companies are supporting food safety advancements globally and many can be seen at our upcoming conference and at the CGF’s upcoming Global Food Safety Conference in Houston, Texas, next month. Only through such support and collaboration can we expect to achieve safe food for consumers, everywhere.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education is the originator of science-based food safety messages and the national leader in developing and disseminating information around the linkage of food safety consumer education with positive health outcomes. The Partnership is the creator and steward of the popular Fight BAC!® national food safety education campaign.
In 2016 the Partnership has 27 association, non-profit and for-profit contributing partners. The country’s leading consumer groups, food industry associations, commodity groups, and professional associations in the food sciences and nutrition are our members. Liaisons from the USDA, FDA, and CDC are active in the Partnership’s work.
Food safety and health educators, and consumers, can download free food safety education information from the Partnership’s website at http://www.fightbac.org/.
This post was written and contributed by:
Shelley Feist, Executive Director
Partnership for Food Safety Education