Getting In the Food Safety Discovery Zone
Question: What’s 40 feet long, bright yellow, and helps to keep you healthy?
Answer: No, it’s not an overgrown banana. It’s the USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone, also known as our Food Safety Mobile. The Discovery Zone will be traveling to state fairs, public events, supermarkets, and schools around the country this summer and fall. Our goal is to provide visitors of all ages with interactive and fun experiences that teach them how to Fight BAC, the bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.
We launched the Discovery Zone last week on the National Mall, and the first thing we noticed is how children and their families were attracted to the vehicle and curious about the life-size characters outside, such as Thermy™ and BAC®. When they entered Discovery Zone, they found a brightly colored, fun-house kitchen with several learning stations, including “The Danger Zone,” “Through the Microscope,” and “The Microwave.”
By now, most children seem to have learned the importance of washing hands to prevent illness. Even so, the kids on the Discovery Zone loved the “Germs That Glow in the Dark” station, where they learned about the importance of hand washing. They also got a kick out of “Through the Microscope,” where they could get an up-close view of bacteria like E. coli that cause foodborne illness.
We found out that it’s not just the kids who enjoyed learning about food safety. At the “Food Thermometer” station, a number of avid backyard barbecuers assured us that they “could tell by looking” when a hamburger is done. They were surprised to see for themselves that the color of the meat doesn’t always indicate that it’s safe to eat. They learned that you need a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, and seafood – on the grill (and everywhere else, for that matter), to make sure they’re safe to eat.
While the primary mission of the Discovery Zone is education, we can also deploy it in the event of a natural disaster to support local food safety education efforts. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005, an earlier version of the Food Safety Mobile demonstrated how to sanitize kitchen items and provided critical food safety supplies.
In June, the Food Safety Discovery Zone will be on the road, traveling to Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Kansas, and Michigan. You can follow our activities on our Discovery Zone Web site and on Twitter. You can also take a virtual tour on YouTube or submit a request for the Discovery Zone to visit your school, market, or other events.