When it comes to most produce items, there is no kill step for food safety. We enjoy raw produce and it’s good for us. All the more reason it has to be handled safely from field to fork. The industry and government have their roles to play, and the Produce Marketing Association is committed to those efforts. We work with government on food safety rules that accomplish the goals in ways that make sense for businesses.
We offer training to small growers (pathogens don’t respect company size, borders, or distance to market). We helped found and continue to support the Center for Produce Safety, which is focused exclusively on providing the produce industry and government with open access to the actionable information needed to continually enhance the safety of produce. We offer staff and member expertise on produce safety.
But the food safety continuum doesn’t stop at the retail shelf or restaurant plate. Consumers have a role to play as well. PMA has supported the Partnership for Food Safety Education since its inception in 1997 as a credible source for consumer food safety advice that is science-based and consumer-tested. The four foundational messages—clean, separate, cook, and chill—help consumers understand and incorporate safe food handling practices.
The Partnership also allowed us the opportunity to work with others to craft safe produce handling messages for consumers. Because produce doesn’t have a kill step, it’s critical that consumers understand their roles in safe produce handling. We all want to be confident in the safety of our food—from what the producers do to how retailers and foodservice operators handle food and what we can do in our own homes. Confidence about produce safety allows consumers to focus on flavor, variety and nutrition.
We’re all in this together—the food industry, the government, academia, and consumers. The Partnership for Food Safety Education not only provides consumer education, it also provides the forum for all of these groups to work together on this essential endeavor. The Partnership can gather and make visible the great efforts from local and regional food safety educators. It is a catalyst, mobilizing everyone who wants to be involved in enhancing food safety for consumers.
If the Partnership did not exist, we would need to create it. And that’s why PMA continues to support the good work the Partnership does. Consumers are an important link in the food safety chain. Teaching them to handle food safely is equally important.
NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit, public health and safety organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Originally formed as the National Sanitation Foundation in 1944 at the University of Michigan School of Public Health to develop consensus on food equipment sanitation standards, NSF has grown over the years and now touches many areas of public health and safety, including: drinking water, biohazard cabinetry, food safety, water quality, sustainability, and more. Consumers may recognize the blue NSF “mark” on a variety of products in their homes, commercial buildings, and restaurants and grocery stores. Consumers can search NSF’s online listings to see which products have been inspected, tested, and certified to comply with U.S. standards. NSF International provides food safety inspection services from farm to fork, including on-site audits of farms, processing facilities, distribution centers, grocery stores, and restaurants. These services are requested by companies who want to voluntarily demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and best practices when it comes to food safety, providing an added layer of protection to the primary regulatory inspection role.
Our country now imports so many food products, including up to 75% of seafood and 40% of fresh fruit and vegetables. The rapid globalization of our food supply and the increased demand for fresh produce year-round has resulted in regulatory inspections falling behind. Regulatory inspection limitations were addressed in the 2011 U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), in which third party audits of foreign food facilities will be recognized as a basis of product acceptance. A major benefit to consumers is that this added oversight of imports will be done at no direct cost to taxpayers. Third party audits already benefit consumers by providing independent surveillance of the domestic and foreign food supply chain at a frequency that often exceeds current FDA inspection schedules. Today, food growers, processors, distributors, and retailers contract thousands of third party audits per year to help ensure the safety of their products.
NSF is a long-time financial supporter of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, and serving on the Partnership Board of Directors. NSF has also developed the Scrub Club for Kids, an on-line, hand-washing promotional program for kids. NSF partnered with the USDA, FDA, and CDC in carrying out two national consumer food safety education conferences to help ensure that health educators have the latest and best information to positively impact consumer food safety behaviors.
Today, NSF employs more than 1,300 professionals, with offices and laboratories around the world, to help promote the health and safety of consumers everywhere. For more information, visitwww.nsf.org
A performance partnership is a collaboration of high performing individuals or organizations that come together to accelerate their achievements or achieve a greater, more global, long term impact. Key to a strong performance partnership is a sense of urgency to achieve a result, and capable partners who align their actions to have greater impact. The folks who have been committed to food safety education for years certainly meet this definition!
You are highly skilled, effective organizations and individuals who are doing great work in the arena of food safety. Many of you focus on multiple aspect of food safety—policy, standards, education and outreach, etc. A performance partnership will allow you to bring your successful strategies together to achieve a widespread result: reducing incidence of foodborne infections.
I am honored to be doing this work with you. I have the easy job. In collaboration with the Partnership for Food Safety Education, I will facilitate the creation of a strategic action plan and an environment for you to achieve success. Many of you have already given us great insight, feedback, data, and energy. We are well on our way to full blown performance partnership!
At upcoming summits in March and April we will tap into your collective skills and capacity to achieve success and create a “call to action”. The resulting plan will be action-focused and will be rooted in the Theory of Aligned Contributions – which is what happens when leaders bring to the table their commitment to action and their sense of urgency so they can make a measurable impact in a short period of time.
The non-profit PFSE will be “holder” of the plan. They will coordinate implementation of the strategies. They will track and synthesize the data that will tell you if the powerful strategies developed and implemented by you have resulted in people being “better off”.
Development of the action plan will focus on two Healthy People 2020 objectives:
A reduction in infections caused by key pathogens transmitted commonly through food;
An increase in the proportion of consumers who follow key food safety practices.
An effective performance partnership can make these things happen. What an amazing impact to have!
I look forward to working with you to align the work you already do, enhance the collaboration between partners, bring new partners into the work and create new strategies to achieve the result. Thank you in advance for your contributions!
Jolie Bain Pillsbury PhD is President of Sherbrooke Consulting, Inc. and the author of Results Based Facilitation™.
Dr. Elisabeth Hagen is the former Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. She oversees policies and programs at the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Prior to her appointment as Under Secretary in August 2010, she served as USDA’s Chief Medical Officer, advising on a range of issues such as food safety, nutrition, and zoonotic diseases.
To me, there is no more fundamental function of government than to keep its people safe from harm. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, my job in the Office of Food Safety is to protect the health of more than 300 million Americans through a strong food safety system. I have been personally charged by Secretary Vilsack to look at every possible way to reduce foodborne illness and I am looking forward to working with all of you in executing this critical mission.
Prevention has to be the foundation of everything we do. With that as a foundation, we need to activate the most powerful tools at our disposal, including quality data. We also need to engage and involve people because they are the reason all of this matters.
USDA is committed to a proactive approach to food safety. We are building on the tools we have, and identifying additional ones we need to protect consumers. This includes quick, accurate information around recalls and outbreaks. It also means educating consumers about safe food handling.
People hear stories of foodborne illness, and the next question is always “What can I do? What steps can I do to decrease the risk for my family?” As a mom, I’m always looking for information that will empower me to keep my kids healthy, safe, and happy. When I was in private practice, my patients were always seeking similar information about steps they could take to reduce the risk of preventable diseases. USDA’s food safety education programs, hotlines, online databases, and consumer outreach materials are all aimed at helping consumers handle and prepare food safely. Last year we reached more than 4 million consumers with our safe handling and public health messages, through traditional and new media.
We have a terrific opportunity to reach many more Americans on the topic of safe food handling and good health through a new partnership with the Ad Council. Through the partnership, we will produce a multi-media, bilingual, national public service ad campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of foodborne illnesses and to get people to consistently practice safe food handling at home. We are working with many of you on this Ad Council campaign and I’m very hopeful it will be a great success through your efforts to connect with consumers: where they live, work, and where they shop for food.
A foodborne illness can cause irreparable harm. The impact of a serious foodborne illness is felt beyond its immediate impact in terms of higher health care costs and lost wages. As a medical doctor, I’ve seen the impact of foodborne illness first-hand. I’m reminded of it every time I sit across the table from someone who lost their son or daughter to E. coli O157:H7.
A single pathogen can leave a lot of damage in its wake. The cost of foodborne illness is just too high—especially when you consider that it is preventable. I look forward to working with you as a partner in doing everything we can, together, to prevent foodborne illness.
Nancy Donley is recognized as a leading proponent of improvement in both government and private food safety efforts. Nancy works in a volunteer capacity for STOP Foodborne Illness (formerly S.T.O.P.—Safe Tables Our Priority) and has served as its president for over 10 years. Nancy serves on the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection.
As the President of STOP Foodborne Illness, a national, grassroots, non-profit public health organization whose mission is to prevent illness and death from pathogens in the food supply, my work involves building awareness of foodborne risk and its management. Our members include families who have suffered illness and loss from a broad spectrum of food types. I personally became involved in the issue of food safety after the death of my 6-year-old son, Alex, from E. coli O157:H7 poisoning from contaminated meat in 1993.
Over the years, STOP has significantly improved public health by raising awareness about foodborne pathogens, advocating for stricter regulations and assisting those personally impacted by foodborne illness. We regularly work with and inform receptive food industry trade groups and companies, national and local media, government representatives on both sides of the aisle, as well as the USDA, FDA, and the CDC. We hold congressional forums and panels with legislators, those affected by foodborne illness and professionals from a diverse range of disciplines, such as physicians and meat inspectors.
While STOP’s core work involves advocating for stronger public health-based policies to prevent contaminated food from making its way into the marketplace in the first place, we recognize that there is no such thing as 100% safe food and that consumers must be armed with information to best protect themselves from contracting foodborne illness. The work of the Partnership for Food Safety Education plays a vital role in the chain of risk management. It raises consumer awareness of risks in food and provides home safe food handling practices. Consumers need to know what they can do, in their homes, to protect their families when preparing meals. Simply put, food preparers need to know about the potential consequences and core practices to protect their families from illness as best as they can. We are excited to see that the Partnership is pursuing measurement of safe food handling behaviors and improving outcomes in food safety education. STOP is proud to work with the Partnership in their strategic initiative process to improve effectiveness in food safety education.