I was honored to address over 700 national leaders in the food safety field last week at “Advancements in Food Safety Education: Trends, Tools and Technologies,” a conference co-hosted by USDA.
This was our largest-ever gathering for this event, drawing an audience of educators, scientists, public health officials, industry leaders, consumer representatives and others in the food safety field.
President Obama made it clear early in his presidency that food safety is among his highest priorities. Less than 60 days after taking office, the President established the Food Safety Working Group to advise him on how to upgrade the U.S. food safety system.
One goal of the group is to communicate critical food safety messages to food preparers. For example, avoiding cross contamination and staying home from work when you have a stomach virus. Educators and health professionals play a critical role in delivering these messages. Millions of foodborne illnesses are caused by contamination during food preperation, thus training food handlers to prepare food safely is a key part of the President’s goal.
At the conference, many new and powerful communications approaches were demonstrated, ranging from simple storage and reheating labels for takeout food containers, to the use of social marketing to motivate moms to use food thermometers, and using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to promote key food safety messages. We also learned how citizens can help establish state food safety collaboratives of public, private, and non-profit food safety stakeholders to develop state food safety plans -- blueprints to reduce foodborne illness.
The momentum generated at the conference was inspiring. As a result of their work at the conference, some of the nation’s top food safety educators will continue to play a critical role in ensuring the food that reaches America’s dinner tables is safe.
To join the effort to support improving the nation’s food safety, be sure to visit foodsafety.gov, the cross-agency “one-stop shop” for food safety information. You can also follow @usdafoodsafety on Twitter, watch food safety videos on YouTube or sign up for e-mails to be notified of the latest food recalls.
To learn more about the President’s Food Safety Working Group visit fswg.gov.
Watch the Food Safety Education Conference Video Round-Up:
Jerold Mande is Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture