I was honored to represent the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) at the Partnership for Food Safety Education summit in Chicago the first part of March. The summit was a wonderful opportunity to network with other professionals who are engaged in food safety education.
As the president of NEAFCS, I represent over 2,000 extension educators throughout the United States who are actively engaged in consumer education. Food safety education has always been a priority for Extension, and as employees of the national land grant universities our mission is provide up to date researched based information to consumers.
As a national association, we compile the impact of our educators programming nationwide and have been consolidating that data into national impact statements that illustrate the breath of our educational efforts. Below are some highlights from a sample of the current programs sponsored by Extension:
Food Handler Education Program – ServSafe food safety training and certification program
Pennsylvania – 1,863 individuals certified for operation of their food service establishment.
Indiana – educators trained over 3,000 individuals who work in the food retail industry, assisting them to obtain certification as safe food handlers
Consumer Food Safety – Extension provides research-based information regarding food safety and storage through response to consumer inquiries
Ohio – 400 gardeners attended a one day workshop on increasing their knowledge of safe food practices
Nebraska – 125 participants attended “Bite When the Temperature is Right” learning how to calibrate a thermometer and use it when cooking meat and poultry
Cooking for Crowds –
Pennsylvania – trained volunteers from non-profit organization who serve meals to over 300,000 customers in a 3 month period, proper food safety practices
Hand Washing Education –
Idaho – basic hand washing taught to the hundreds of international athletes at the World Special Olympics, through use of “Germ City” an interactive program
Food Preservation and Canning –
Mississippi – educators teach “Basic Hazard Critical Control Points” training
South Dakota – following completion of food preservation workshops 88% of the participants adopted critical safe food handling practices
These are just a few examples of the educational effort of NEAFCS Extension Educators. If you would like to view our impact pieces please visit our website at www.neafcs.org. NEAFCS is very excited to be a part of the Partnership for Food Safety Education and we look forward to assisting in the efforts to educate consumer on the importance of safe food handling practices to reduce food borne illness.
There is little doubt in my mind the role that food retailers must accept in educating shoppers about food safety. These days, if we are to rebuild confidence in the safety of our food supply, we must educate and empower shoppers.
Educating shoppers as to the reasons for a recall in a timely manner is critical; as well as explaining as best we can what happened. I have received hundreds of emails from our readers who are perplexed and confused about just how fenugreek seeds that were imported from Egypt two years prior, could carry the deadly bacteria. Consumers today want to know more and understand where our foods come from and how they are produced.
Which is why our food retailers must take the lead on empowering shoppers with the tools they need to insure proper food safety practices in their homes, and when eating in restaurants. The places we purchase our foods are the best places to share this information – and it is not only about hanging a poster or shelf talker.
Seeing is believing. And each time a shopper is handed a piece of fish, or meat, or salad from the deli an opportunity exists to have a one-on-one food safety dialogue. Yes, I understand that the staff in our service departments are already over worked and under time pressure, however, taking the time to remind the shopper how to take care of the product – in their cart, car and at home – can do more than just share helpful tips; it can also reinforce the stores image and relationship with that shopper. After all, there is nothing more powerful than protecting one’s life.