Recipes for Disaster: New Food Safety PSAs Show Us That Forgetting Food Safety Steps is a Recipe for Disaster
81 million Americans are expected to barbeque this July 4th holiday, marking the start of summer - a time when incidents of food poisoning, tend to surge. Luckily, new Food Safety online PSAs remind us how to keep our families safe.
In preparation for Independence Day and barbeque season, the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are launching new public service advertisements (PSAs) as part of their national Food Safe Families campaign, the first multimedia effort designed to raise awareness of the risks of foodborne illness in the home.
Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat in the United States. The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Because warm weather events often present an opportunity for bacteria to thrive and high temperatures cause bacteria to multiply more rapidly, the summer months typically see a spike in reports of foodborne illness and outbreaks.
"Safe food handling is just as important at the grill as it is in the kitchen to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "The Food Safe Families campaign shares simple, but important reminders of steps consumers can take year round to help keep their families safe from food poisoning."
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of families are not using a food thermometer regularly to check the temperature of meat and poultry and one-third (33 percent) are not using different or freshly cleaned cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination between different food products (such as raw meat and produce).
"Our research has shown that many consumers are confident that their current cooking practices are safe, when in fact they're not following the recommended safe food handling and preparation guidelines," said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. "Our goal with the new PSAs is to raise awareness of foodborne illness and encourage families to both learn and practice key steps that will help keep their families safe from foodborne illness."
Created pro bono by ad agency Partners + Napier, the new Food Safe Families PSAs follow the story of Maria, a TV Chef on the fictional show Recipes for Disaster who unintentionally makes the wrong food safety decisions when preparing her dishes. By highlighting her missteps, families receive fun and humorous reminders about how to take steps to reduce their personal risk for food poisoning and highlight the following safe food behaviors:
-- Clean: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling raw food. Clean all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water. Wash all produce under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
-- Separate: Use separate plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs and foods that are ready to eat (like already cooked foods or raw vegetables).
-- Cook: Cook foods to the safe temperature by using a food thermometer.
-- Chill: Chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking.
The first Recipe for Disaster “webisode,” “Bacteria BBQ” and Spanish-language version “Bacterias en la barbacoa,” launched earlier this week and additional online videos, radio, print, and web advertising will be distributed later this summer. All campaign elements direct audiences to visit FoodSafety.gov, where they can learn about food safety practices. Consumers can also access "Ask Karen," an online database with answers to nearly 1,500 questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses in both English and Spanish.
Launched in June of 2012, Food Safe Families is the first joint national multimedia public service campaign designed to help families prevent food poisoning in the home. Since launch, the campaign has received over $57 million in donated media and campaign website, FoodSafety.gov has received over 4 million visits. Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs are distributed to media outlets nationwide and run in air time and space donated by the media.
Picnics and barbecues with family and friends are part of summer fun. Make sure they stay fun by remembering that foodborne bacteria can multiply rapidly in summer temperatures. To protect against foodborne illness when eating outdoors, follow these simple food safety guidelines for transporting your food, preparing, and serving it safely
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler - including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed" need not be washed.
- Keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.
- Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
- Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another, so that frequent opening of the beverage cooler won’t expose the perishable foods to warm outdoor air temperatures
- Don’t cross-contaminate. It’s best to have a separate cooler for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, but if you don’t, make sure they are securely wrapped. This keeps their juices from contaminating already prepared foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
Going to the Picnic
- Put cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs for transport. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
- Carry coolers in the passenger compartment of your car, not in the much warmer trunk.
When You Get There
- Hand cleaning is key to food safety— including outdoor settings. If you don’t have access to running water, simply use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Or, consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.
- Keep coolers closed as much as you can to keep the contents cold longer.
- Once served, cold food should not sit out for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90° F. If it does - throw it away.
- Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140° F. Wrap it well and place it in an insulated container until serving.
- Just like cold food - hot foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F. If does, again, throw it away to be safe.
Safe Grilling Tips
Just as when cooking indoors, there are important steps to ensure that your grilled food is safe.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator - never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. If you will use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
- Cook immediately after "partial cooking." If you partially cook food to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill. Cook food thoroughly. When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready. Always use it to be sure your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Keep cooked food hot. Move cooked grilled food to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals to keep it hot until served.
- Don't reuse platters or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood because bacteria from the raw food’s juices can spread to the cooked food. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
- Check for foreign objects in food. If you clean your grill using a bristle brush, check to make sure that no detached bristles have made their way into the grilled food.
For more information, see FDA’s Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safely
Food poisoning, sometimes known as foodborne illness, can happen anywhere, to anyone, and from foods we might not expect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with federal, state, and local partners to collect information about how many people get sick each year from different foodborne germs, or germs found in food. The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) provides important data for tracking these foodborne illnesses.
Report Card for Food Safety
Each year, FoodNet reports the changes in the number of people with foodborne infections that were confirmed by laboratory tests. This information lets CDC, its partners, and policy makers know how much progress has been made in reaching national goals for reducing foodborne illness.
Highlights of the 2012 FoodNet Data
Data from FoodNet, which accounts for 15% of the US population, provide the best measure of trends in foodborne disease in the United States. Trends show if illnesses are increasing or decreasing. Overall, the 2012 FoodNet data showed a lack of recent progress in reducing foodborne infections and highlights the need for improved prevention.
- FoodNet identified 19,531 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection.
- Campylobacter was the second most common infection reported in FoodNet. Incidence of infection was 14% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008.
- Vibrio infections, while rare, were 43% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008.
- You can prevent Vibrio infections by thoroughly cooking oysters and by not exposing wounds to warm seawater.
When compared to the first three years of FoodNet surveillance (1996–1998), the 2012 data shows some clear changes:
- The overall incidence of infection of six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower.
- The overall incidence of Salmonella was unchanged.
- The incidence of Vibrio infection is now 116% higher.
Recent Efforts and Next Steps
Most foodborne illnesses can be prevented. Some progress has been made in decreasing contamination of some foods and reducing illness caused by some pathogens. Recent efforts to reduce contamination of food include:
- Establishing performance standards for Campylobacter contamination of whole broiler chickens in processing plants in 2011.
- Approving more stringent time and temperature controls for oysters after harvest to prevent Vibrio vulnificus infections.
- Passing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.
- The act gives FDA additional authority to regulate food facilities, establish standards for safe produce, recall contaminated foods, and oversee imported foods.
- It calls on CDC to strengthen surveillance and outbreak response.
More can be done. It is important to determine where to target prevention efforts, which requires continued collection of information to understand sources of infection, implementation of measures known to reduce food contamination, and development of new measures.
Dana L. Pitts is the Associate Director of Communications in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases of the CDC.