The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Be Food Safe

Be Food Safe

Food Safety Update

May 25, 2008

Be Food Safe
FOOD SAFETY UPDATE
Consumer knowledge of proper food safety procedures could be improved, says a recent survey conducted by The Partnership for Food Safety Education. The FDA and USDA report that the number of cases of Listeriosis could be reduced by more than 70% if all home refrigerator temperatures did not exceed 41 degrees F. According to the survey, only 20% of consumers say they actually use a refrigerator thermometer. Just 30% have heard they should use a refrigerator thermometer at all.
 
Although consumers seem to be a bit unclear on the issue of proper refrigeration, 73% of adults do agree it is likely they would get sick if they were to eat food stored in a refrigerator that was not kept cold enough. Now, The Partnership for Food Safety Education, in conjunction with the USDA, has launched a national consumer education program to help retailers convey food safety issues, like proper refrigeration, in in-store and external communications programs.
 
“Be Food Safe” is designed to bring renewed focus and a fresh new look to core food safety practices. Developed specifically for, and with input from, leading retailers and manufacturers, Be Food Safe is a creative, educational platform that helps convey colorful food safety messages directly to customers through items like shelf wobblers, fliers and circular ads.
 
“The role of retailers in educating consumers on food safety has never been more important,” says Shelley Feist, Executive Director, The Partnership for Food Safety Education. “We want consumers to see these food safety messages where they shop for food and are thinking about food preparation. This is a positive dialogue retailers can open with their customers.”
 
Need for this type of program has never been more urgent, as over 75% of shoppers believe food-related illness is a serious threat to their health. In fact, a recent Food Marketing Institute survey found that consumer confidence in the safety of their food was down 16% from 2006 to 2007.
 
Research reveals that a majority of adults feel confident they understand and follow food handling procedures, however, the reality is that a large number of respondents do not consistently follow certain safe food handling practices. Only about 15% of people consistently use a food thermometer. Over half of people say they defrost meat and poultry at room temperature at least “sometimes,” which can allow bacteria to grow. Many cut both uncooked meat and ready-to-eat foods on the same cutting board.
 
Each year, approximately 5,000 people will die from foodborne illness – that’s approximately 13 men, women and children daily. The time to educate is now.
After downloading a retail license agreement, retailers can get started with the Be Food Safe platform.
 
Currently, 37 retailers participate in the program, reaching up to 6,000 stores. Here’s a sampling of the type of core downloadable information the program provides. The four core food safety practices of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill take center stage:
 
Clean: Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get on hands, cutting boards, knives and countertops. Frequent cleaning can keep that from happening.
 
· Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
· Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
· Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
 
Separate: Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
 
· Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
· Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.
· Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
 
Cook: Even for experienced cooks, the improper heating and preparation of food means bacteria can survive.
 
· Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Make sure that meat, poultry, egg dishes, casseroles and other foods are cooked to the recommended internal temperatures.
· Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Use a thermometer.
· Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm.
 
Chill: Bacteria spreads fastest at temperatures between 40 degree F and 140 degrees F, so chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce foodborne illness.
 
· Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours. Keep the fridge at 40 degrees F or below and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.
· Never defrost at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing.
 
 
To sign up for Be Food Safe, download educational materials, including safe cooking temperatures for a variety of foods, and learn more about the growing national retailer commitment to food safety, please visit: www.befoodsafe.org or email Shelley Feist at sfeist@fightbac.org.
 
For a list of retailers currently participating in the program, visit:http://www.befoodsafe.org/retailers_list.html.